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Two-Midnights Rule Spells Grim Financial Forecast for Hospitals

Christopher Cheney, for HealthLeaders Media, March 17, 2014

While the two-midnight standard provides an increased measure of temporal clarity in setting the line between outpatient and inpatient care, a new set of records are required under the new rule because an admitting doctor's medical judgment is a critical factor in determining inpatient admission status. As CMS officials noted Friday, "The rule is based on expected length of stay."

"It's our experience in general that smaller hospitals have fewer administrative resources to deal with this," Steingart said, adding there is insufficient data at this point to quantify the impact of the new rule on administrative costs. "Larger systems tend to have more people who can look at this issue, or any issue."

Felgar agrees and says that Frisbie Hospital, a nonprofit facility with 82 beds and a high proportion of relatively short patient stays, could face decreased profits from the rule. But he said all hospitals will feel the pinch.

"It's going to hit everybody. It's a continuation of the government's efforts to reduce expenditures on healthcare," he said. "I don't see any financial upside at all. It's just another difficulty to overcome."

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1 comments on "Two-Midnights Rule Spells Grim Financial Forecast for Hospitals"


Vicky Mahn-DiNicola (3/20/2014 at 7:56 PM)
The comment from CMS that they do not agree with the assertion that the two-midnight rule will accelerate the trend of inpatient care shifting to outpatient is almost laughable. For hospitals that have had very [INVALID]nt and mature medical necessity and utilization management protocols in place, it could theoretically increase inpatient volume slightly because hospitals will feel more confident about admitting to inpatient status those patients who meet medical necessity and are also expected to stay over 2 midnights. Its just another data point to validate their decision. Before they were more likely to admit as observation status if there was any doubt at all about medical necessity just so they could avoid the administrivia associated with the denials and appeals. But face it, MOST hospitals still struggle to keep up with the complexities of ensuring medical necessity and haven't [INVALID]d strong internal physician advisors to support their efforts. For those hospitals, I think we may well see shifts towards increasing outpatient volumes; and especially in those hospitals that are building dedicated observation units. Of course they'll want to fill up these beds! But the driver for this shift isn't the two-midnight rule alone! Add in Medicare Shared Savings ACO incentives, readmission reduction penalties, quality reporting initiatives and RAC Audits and we have the perfect storm to start shifting inpatient claims to lower reimbursing outpatient claims. We need to recognize that we are all shifting from "pay for volume" to "pay for value". The only question that remains is how we define value in the new paradigm.