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Rule not good for rural patients

Post Independent Editorial Board

People facing joint replacement are losing their most valuable asset. Because of a change in Medicare rules, people in need of full-time rehabilitation are being turned away from Valley View Hospital’s acute rehabilitation department.The rule changes the criteria for classification as an acute in-patient rehab center. Although it’s a Medicare rule, it applies to all patients whether they are private-pay, or have insurance or Medicare coverage.The rule limits access to the unit by restricting the service to patients with 13 conditions, and that excludes people with acute arthritis or joint replacement.According to Judy Kelly, director of acute rehab at Valley View, the rule effectively eliminates 80 percent of the people who come in for treatment.As of July 2004, 50 percent of the patients coming into the unit must meet the new criteria. In three years, it must be 75 percent.The rule is onerous for rural hospitals with smaller populations. Urban centers have no problem meeting the criteria.Valley View has already turned patients away and in fact, has closed its doors for a few days at a time because it cannot meet the 50 percent rule.So far, the hospital administration has pledged to keep acute rehab open. But as it becomes more and more difficult to meet the new criteria, it might have to re-evaluate the economic viability of the unit.Only a change in legislation can change the rule. Write our Colorado legislators and urge them to make an exception for rural hospitals so they can continue to offer rehabilitation services to those who need them the most.


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