Access to Postacute Rehabilitation

Published in: Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, v. 88, no. 11, Nov. 2007, p. 1488-1493

by Melinda Beeuwkes Buntin

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Each year, more than 10 million Medicare beneficiaries are discharged from acute care hospitals into postacute care (PAC) settings, including inpatient rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and homes with services from home health agencies. These beneficiaries include very frail and vulnerable elders, many of whom have suffered from an acute event such as a stroke or a fall resulting in hip fracture, all of whom are judged unable to return to their homes without further care. Whether beneficiaries receive PAC and the type and intensity of care they receive is influenced not only by clinical factors, but by nonclinical factors including provider supply and financing, especially Medicare's methods of payment. This article provides a definition of PAC and discusses the wide cross-sectional variation in the use of postacute rehabilitation. It then discusses recent changes to PAC provider payment that have raised concerns about access to postacute rehabilitation, trends in the use of PAC, and what these trends imply about the appropriateness of PAC as it is now delivered. It concludes by identifying issues about the policy and research implications of recent developments and the PAC literature reviewed.

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