When you're dealing with a family medical crisis, the last thing you need is any sort of surprise (May 5 York Dispatch article "York County seniors among those getting Medicare sticker shock"). But that's exactly what some families and seniors face after prolonged hospital stays. It happened to us.

Not long after my widowed mother moved into a retirement community, she took a nasty fall that required emergency care. After that initial treatment, she was moved into a hospital room. For several days, she received excellent around-the-clock care, eating meals in her room and getting to know the doctors and nurses who helped her with anything she needed during her extended stay.

Yet, she was never admitted. And we had no way of knowing.

On the day of her discharge, we secured a bed in a nearby nursing home where she could rehabilitate before returning home. Mom was covered by Medicare — or so we thought.

Just hours after working with the nursing home to get my mom a bed, the administrator called us to tell us Mom was never admitted, but instead kept at the hospital under observation status, meaning Medicare wouldn't pay. Medicare requires a three-day, qualifying hospital stay.

Mom essentially had two options — pay out of pocket for therapy in the nursing home, or go to a nearby rehabilitation hospital where she could be admitted and stay for three more days to meet the qualifying stay requirement for Medicare. There was little choice, because of cost, so Mom went to the rehabilitation hospital. Rather than going directly from the hospital to nursing home, she instead had to go from hospital to rehab to nursing home, an extra stop she really didn't need.


Again, all of these decisions were being made as she was being discharged from the hospital. It was overwhelming.

Mom successfully rehabbed and returned to live at the nursing home for several years before her passing at 93 years old, completely unaware of all we went through that day when she was discharged. But I'll never forget that time.

Earlier this year, I shared my story with the state House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee at a hearing in Harrisburg in support of Rep. Stan Saylor's House Bill 1907. I commend Rep. Saylor for all he's done to keep people informed.

During a medical emergency, that information can be just as important as the care patients receive.

— Brad Jacobs is York County's Register of Wills/Clerk of Orphans Court.