You’re not in the hospital. You’re in observation!

July 13, 2010 at 7:45 pm 2 comments

When Mrs. Lee Barrows was told that her husband Larry, whom she’d been visiting in the hospital for a week was not an in-patient, she asked, then “Who the hell have I been visiting?”  This scene in Connecticut is being repeated daily in acute care hospitals all over the country.  Medicare beneficiaries – although placed in hospital beds (often, from the emergency room) and given medications, tests, therapies, medical and nursing services, food, and a wrist-band – are told they aren’t in-patients; they’re just receiving observation services as outpatients.  Patients often learn about their out-patient status just as they are leaving the hospital for the skilled nursing facility – which won’t be covered by the Medicare program because they weren’t in-patients for three consecutive days! 

The Center for Medicare Advocacy has been hearing this story with increasing frequency over the last year.  We’ve been writing about it (see our 5/24 post), and now, the media is reporting on it.

Bloomberg News published an article by Drew Armstrong on its website and in Business Week – “Medicare Fraud Effort Gives Elderly Surprise Hospital Bills” (July 12, 2010),

The Philadelphia Inquirer also addressed this pressing issue in its article “High cost, rigorous rules can trap Medicare patients” (July 4, 2010),

The Center has lots of information on this issue.  Please go to

And let us hear from you, too!  What is happening to you and your friends and relatives in the hospital?

Entry filed under: Observation.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bob Timms  |  July 13, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I too was a victum of this practice of actually being admitted only to have my doctor forced into changing my stay to under observstion.

    When did I find out ?????

    When the Bills came. NOT BEFORE or During.

    • 2. Judith Stein  |  July 30, 2010 at 2:51 am

      Where are you from and were you able to get any help straightening this out?


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Health Policy Expertise

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July 2010


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