So here’s a sad story about medicine and the law. Sarah Mulcahy was 96 years old when she suffered a bad fall. The pain was so severe that she became incontinent and nauseous. After going to the emergency room, she was hospitalized and spent three nights at Manchester Memorial Hospital in Connecticut. While there, she was X-rayed, CT scanned, hooked up to an IV, treated with an incentive spirometer, and given compression cuffs to prevent deep vein thrombosis. After being discharged, she went to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) to recuperate. She stayed there for more than three months at a price tag of about $30,000.
Fortunately, Medicare covers the costs of SNF care for patients who first spend at least three days as a hospital inpatient. (This is known in the lingo as the “three-midnight rule.”) Unfortunately for Ms. Mulcahy, however, she was never technically admitted as an inpatient to Manchester Memorial. Instead, the hospital had put her on “observation status,” an ill-defined halfway house for a patient who’s too sick to go home but who might not be sick enough to need the full range of hospital services. Because Ms. Mulcahy wasn’t ever an inpatient, Medicare wouldn’t cover her subsequent SNF stay.
So she sued and lost. And then there is this: