New study finds: Medicare eligibility ups rehab use among seniors

In the year after seniors hit Medicare eligibility, there is close to a 10% increase in those seeking rehabilitation care services, according to a new analysis.

In comparing pre-Medicare trauma patients versus those at age 65, researchers at the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital also found a 6.4% decline in uninsured seniors.

Becoming a Medicare beneficiary means more patients have access to skilled nursing facilities, researchers said, allowing them to seek out rehab care that would otherwise be ignored. Medicare coverage restrictions based on hospital stay length were also associated with increased inpatient and skilled nursing care.

Researchers used regression discontinuity models and examined patient data from the National Trauma Data Bank between 2007-2012 to conduct the study. A total of 305,198 patients were analyzed, with slightly over a total of 40% receiving rehabilitation care.

"As a nation, it's imperative that we continue to study the impact of ongoing healthcare reform, particularly when it comes to the effect that health insurance status has on access to rehabilitation,"  Adil Haider, M.D., MPH, FACS, lead author of the study and Kessler Director of the Center for Surgery and Public Health, said. "Whether it's discharge to a skilled nursing facility, acute inpatient facility, or care provided at home, rehabilitation is a key step in the healing and recovery process and every patient deserves equitable access."