Skilled nursing facility (SNF) situations

Medicare covers skilled nursing facility (SNF) care. There are some situations that may impact your coverage and costs.

Observation services

Your doctor may order observation services to help decide whether you need to be admitted to the hospital as an inpatient or can be discharged. During the time you're getting observation services in the hospital, you're considered an outpatient—you can't count this time towards the 3-day inpatient hospital stay needed for Medicare to cover your SNF stay. Find out if you're an inpatient or an outpatient.

Readmission to a hospital

If you're in a SNF, there may be situations where you need to be readmitted to the hospital. If this happens, there's no guarantee that a bed will be available for you at the same SNF if you need more skilled care after your hospital stay. Ask the SNF if it will hold a bed for you if you must go back to the hospital. Also, ask if there's a cost to hold the bed for you.

Meeting the 3-day inpatient hospital stay requirement

Here are some examples of common hospital situations that show if you've met the 3-day inpatient hospital stay requirement:

  • Situation 1: You came to the Emergency Department (ED) and were formally admitted to the hospital with a doctor’s order as an inpatient for 3 days. You were discharged on the 4th day.
    Is my SNF stay covered? Yes. You met the 3-day inpatient hospital stay requirement for a covered SNF stay.
     
  • Situation 2: You came to the ED and spent one day getting observation services. Then, you were formally admitted to the hospital as an inpatient for 2 more days.
    Is my SNF stay covered? No. Even though you spent 3 days in the hospital, you were considered an outpatient while getting ED and observation services. These days don’t count toward the 3-day inpatient hospital stay requirement.

Refusing care

If you refuse your daily skilled care or therapy, you may lose your Medicare SNF coverage. If your condition won't allow you to get skilled care (like if you get the flu), you may be able to continue to get Medicare coverage temporarily.

Stopping care or leaving

If you stop getting skilled care in the SNF, or leave the SNF altogether, your SNF coverage may be affected depending on how long your break in SNF care lasts.

If your break in skilled care lasts more than 30 days, you need a new 3-day hospital stay to qualify for additional SNF care. The new hospital stay doesn’t need to be for the same condition that you were treated for during your previous stay.

If your break in skilled care lasts for at least 60 days in a row, this ends your current benefit period and renews your SNF benefits. This means that the maximum coverage available would be up to 100 days of SNF benefits.

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