Be an Advocate When Your Loved One Is Hospitalized

My friend’s father spent several days in a hospital recently due to a heart condition. His treatment was excellent and he recovered and was discharged appropriately and in a good time frame. He has returned to his activities unscathed. But, there are many patients who are not so lucky…

Joanne suffered a stroke two days ago. Although they expect her to make a near full recovery, the incident shook the family. Her grandson found her on the floor while taking in her newspaper. The hospital is planning to discharge tomorrow, feeling that they have done their duty to perform tests and diagnose what caused her stroke. Joanne’s daughter, Kerri, doesn’t agree with the doctor, but decides that “the doctor knows best,” and is happy to have her mother go home. Joanne’s son, Ben, feels quite differently and adamantly opposes the discharge plans and feels that Joanne should undergo more testing and some time should be taken to develop better rehab options and to get a plan in place to avoid this from happening again. In the end he doesn’t push the subject, because, “Kerri should make the decisions for mom. She’s the daughter, right?”

Many are discharged from the hospital too early, and their health can suffer. Hospitals have strong financial incentives to discharge Medicare patients as quickly as possible. Huh? Wouldn’t the hospital make more in fees if it held a patient longer? Not necessarily, Medicare generally pays hospitals flat rates based on the type of medical problem being treated. So, if the hospital spends less money on your care than Medicare pays, it makes money.

To protect your parent from being discharged too quickly, Medicare gives you (yes, YOU) the right to appeal hospital discharge decisions. At or near admission, and usually again before discharge, a hospital must give you a notice which explains that the patient may appeal if the patient or their representative (either with the patient’s permission or through a Health Care Proxy) believes they are being discharged too soon. The notice also explains how to file an appeal.

Know your rights. If you think your parent, or loved one, is not ready to leave the hospital, discuss your concerns with the doctor and the hospital staff. If your concerns are not resolved, file an appeal and ask for an expedited review. Be an informed and effective advocate – be involved in their care.

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