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Medicare beneficiaries sue U.S. over hospital stays

Chicago Tribune/Reuters, November 4, 2011

A group of Medicare patients and their families sued the Obama administration on Thursday, saying they were deprived of coverage by the government health plan because of a policy that allows hospitals to avoid admitting elderly people with chronic ailments as inpatients. The plaintiffs, who are seeking class-action status for the case, asked a U.S. district court in Hartford, Connecticut, to stop Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from authorizing doctors to place Medicare hospital patients on "observation" status rather than admitting them for inpatient care. The observation services policy, meant to apply mainly for hospital stays of no more than 48 hours, is instead being used to keep the elderly on outpatient status for longer stays including some lasting up to a week, according to court documents.