Hospitals – Always a Safe Haven but What is Up with these “Observation” Stays?

Whenever I see an ambulance whizzing by, lights flashing and sirens going, my first thought is always, “I hope everyone belong to me is safe at home or wherever else they are supposed to be at this moment.” Selfish, I know, but there it is. Then I picture the situation that necessitated the 911 call for an ambulance – was it a car accident, heart attack, fall from a ladder, a toddler ingesting a chemical? I think about how this crisis may very well have altered that person’s life (and their family’s) forever. You just never know.


Luckily, our communities have wonderful emergency response systems and dedicated personnel who respond within minutes to our crises. And, as scary as being rushed to the hospital can be, seeing the bright red Emergency Room sign as you pull up to the entrance does brings huge relief because you know that behind those sliding glass doors, there is literally a team of professionals ready to jump into action the second you are whisked through.

It is reassuring to see people in white coats and colorful scrubs doing what they do best and doing it quickly – asking questions, giving directives, assessing and prescribing. In that moment, you are the beneficiary of all their years of study, knowledge and hands-on experience.

Hopefully, your crisis is manageable and you can be discharged quickly with follow-up instructions. For those who must stay for a longer period, well, at least you are in the best place to get whatever care and treatment is being prescribed for you.

Just be aware, though, that certain hospital stays may not be what they seem. Specifically, the effort to control Medicare costs has resulted in a new phenomenon regarding hospitalizations called the “observation stay.” This means hospitals can choose not to admit a patient for up to 48 hours, or longer, before officially determining their status, be it observation or admission.

The observation designation can have serious consequences for all Medicare recipients, especially those who live alone or those who are not able to return to their homes.  A Medicare recipient needs to have a three day qualifying hospital stay for their post-hospital services at a nursing home or rehabilitation center to be covered by Medicare.

Some families are coping with the aftercare dilemma by seeking placement at assisted living residences that offer short-term respite stays. In this situation, the person is responsible for a more reasonable “room and board” rate, and if qualified, can access community services and therapies that can be covered under Medicare, just as if there were at home.

Have questions?  Reach out to your physician and healthcare professionals so you can be prepared.  Call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at 1-800-633-4227 for information on hospitalization benefits/coverage. Also, call The Springvale Inn at 914-739-6700 to learn about the services offered at Assisted Living residences to help those who are newly discharged from the hospital, but unable to go home.

Bethel Homes and Services is the only not for profit full continuum of care in Northern Westchester that provides Home Care, Adult Day Services, two skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, independent and assisted senior living apartments, hospice and respite care in Croton-on-Hudson and Ossining, New York.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recommended For You

About the Author: River Journal