Fixing a loophole that limits seniors’ access to Medicare-funded nursing home care following a hospital stay should be high on Congress’ agenda. Ambiguous regulations in the Medicare program are resulting in higher costs to seniors as well as increased worry and inconvenience.

As the administrator at ManorCare Health Services — Parma, I see on a regular basis how the so-called observation status loophole prevents some of our most vulnerable elderly citizens from getting the care that can only be found in skilled nursing facilities after a hospital stay. Thankfully, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has introduced an extremely important piece of legislation to address this worsening problem.

Currently, Medicare only covers post-acute rehab care in a nursing home if a patient has three consecutive days of hospitalization as an inpatient. Brown’s bill, Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act, would allow “observation stays” in a hospital to be counted toward the three-day mandatory inpatient stay for Medicare to cover follow-up rehabilitation costs in a nursing home.

It is patently wrong and unfair that patients who receive hospital care on observation status do not qualify for this benefit, even if their hospital stay lasts longer than three days.

“Observation stays” are specific, clinically appropriate services that treat and assess a patient in a hospital while a decision is being made whether they will require further treatment as hospital inpatients — or if they can be discharged from the hospital.

Brown’s bill brings needed clarity, so that three days in the hospital are clearly recognized and treated as three days in the hospital. It eliminates ambiguity so that anyone who meets that three-day threshold can receive the clear benefit derived from follow-up rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility.

Failure to address the status quo can result in patient confusion and the possibility of not receiving the appropriate and necessary care that restores quality of life and quickens a return home. In some instances, frail patients arrive at a nursing home, and because Medicare will not cover the benefit, are forced to pay out-of-pocket. That’s just wrong.

When seniors are transferred from a hospital to a nursing home for supplemental care, the bottom line is that they should be able to focus on their recovery, not technicalities that can lead to high out-of-pocket medical bills and yet more stress.

Seniors in their 70s and 80s entering our facility do not need or deserve this extra burden. We thank Sen. Brown for his effort to address one of Medicare’s most onerous, ill-conceived rules.

Kim Sheeler

Parma

Giving in faith ?and hope

Regarding your positive article on April 23 on the Rooted in Faith – Forward in Hope campaign: Thank you for this coverage. This is good news.

I was always taught that when someone asked something of me, I was to try do what was asked. When Bishop Richard G. Lennon asked me to contribute to the diocesan campaign I barely blinked and then said yes.

I am a priest in the Diocese of Cleveland for over 30 years, and I am very grateful for my training and parish assignments. I believe many people have been taught this same way of giving. The great success of the campaign truly represents this. People do sacrifice for what they want all the time and make incredible efforts for what they believe in.

Nice going to all the people and priests of the entire Diocese of Cleveland.

The Rev. James E. Singler

Cuyahoga Falls

Tax-evading ?corporations

While listening to Bill Moyers on PBS, I was struck by the information presented. Moyers reported that corporate profits were at an all-time high, $1.7 trillion. He suggested that some of this huge amount of money would provide new jobs for our many unemployed, or that the employees of these corporations would receive a pay increase, but none of these happened.

Neither did any of these corporations provide their local economy with tax dollars to help with bridge and road repair, or, at least support schools where these companies do business, but none of these occurred. Instead, the huge corporate profits were put in off-shore accounts where our tax code could not touch the funds. The huge drug company, Pfizer, paid zero dollars in taxes. Microsoft avoided paying $4.5 billion over a three-year period by shifting income to Puerto Rico.

These are not the only corporations being protected by the GOP (Guardians of Privilege). Our government has continued writing laws that would protect the rich 1 percent. President Obama, who has tried to protect the rights of the middle class in our country, is being forced to cut back programs like Social Security and Medicare.

It is President Obama who will be blamed for our poor economy while the rich will continue to remain untouched. Where is the justice and how can this pattern ever be reversed?

Sister Kathy McIntyre

Fairlawn

Of different minds?on mindfulness

In response to the April 25 column by Terry Gordon, “From mindfulness to mindlessness”: It seems obvious in this day and age of “separation of church and state” that the practice of “mindfulness,” a Buddhist practice for reaching Nirvana, the state of ultimate being, would be so casually presented to our children.

I remember distinctly 45 years ago when I was engaged in a mindfulness practice called Transcendental Meditation, the Hindu version. After five years of opening my mind to “enlightenment,” I suffered severe emotional and physical damage — some would say a post traumatic stress syndrome — the very opposite of why I initially engaged the practice.

No children should be subjected to this potential outcome. I am a neighbor and friend of Dr. Gordon and I deeply respect his genius, but we radically differ on this issue.

Rick Ivan, D.D.S.

Richfield

Last chance ?for Coventry

Even though I don’t currently have children in the Coventry school district, I am deeply concerned about the state of the school buildings. Erwine Middle School is very old and past the point of needing repair. The building is not safe.

The gym that houses the high school basketball games is an embarrassment because both the home and visiting fans sit on the same side of the gym. Many times, especially during league play, the crowd can be over capacity, forcing many people to stand during games.

I hear of buildings not having any heat because the boilers are too old, the parts to repair them can’t be found, and it would be way too costly to try to replace the whole heating system. You might as well just replace the building.

Right now, the state is offering to pay $11 million toward the project. The community would need to pay the balance for the needed construction. This is the last chance to get this money from the state.

If the community turns down Issue 5, the state money will be gone. It will go to other school districts to give them an opportunity to improve their buildings, just like what Barberton did when it was offered money. The district was not foolish to turn down an opportunity like this. One day, Erwine Middle School will be forced to close because of its dangerous condition. Then guess what, the community will have to foot the entire bill to replace the building. Remember, construction costs will keep going up every year. The state money is there for the taking. Let’s embrace the opportunity.

Those who are so set against this levy should ask themselves: How would you like it if you went to your place of work or were at home and didn’t have heat during the winter months? This is what is happening to our children in this community. For those who say the administration is mishandling money, or whatever the complaints are, remember, in the end, the children are the victims of our petty disagreements.

Children in this community deserve much better than our childish bickering. This is for them. My children have had the honor of attending Coventry schools. They all have had the opportunity to receive a good education. Coventry has been rated Excellent with Distinction.

The teachers and staff care very deeply for our children. They deserve better facilities to continue to educate our children. Please join me in voting yes for the Coventry school levy on May 7.

Dave Howe

New Franklin

Circle of empathy

There is no mystery as to the decision of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman to suddenly support gay rights because he now knows that his son is gay.

I was raised by Republicans. Most of our friends are Republicans. I’m very familiar with their beliefs.

I’ve noticed one basic difference between conservatives and progressives: Republicans lack empathy for human beings outside their narrow circle of family and friends.

Judy Johnson

Plain Township