Durbin, Cassidy Applaud Senate Passage Of Bipartisan Legislation To Support Leading Rehab Hospitals

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) applaud Senate passage of their bipartisan legislation to support rehabilitation facilities that lead the nation in medical research and complex treatment.  The Dr. Joanne Smith Memorial Rehabilitation Innovation Centers Act recognizes the unique role that a leading class of rehabilitation facilities play in our health care system, by driving innovative research for the entire field, providing a high volume of medical training to students, and treating the highest need patients across the country. The bill is named after Dr. Joanne Smith, who was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab—the nation’s top-ranked rehab hospital since 1991—until her passing last year. 

“Dr. Joanne Smith was a passionate, visionary leader whose innovation propelled Shirley Ryan to be the gold standard in its field,” said Durbin. “This legislation recognizes and supports the work of top rehab facilities nationwide focused on cutting-edge research, training new medical professionals, and providing quality care to patients with serious complex health conditions.  I’m thankful for Senator Cassidy’s partnership and am hopeful our bill will be signed into law as soon as possible.”

“Passing this legislation supports the doctors and researchers providing the best evidence-based treatments make a real difference in a patient’s recovery,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Supporting rehab facilities is a step towards returning patients to wholeness after complex injuries.”

In the United States, there are more than 1,100 Medicare-certified inpatient rehabilitation facilities.  Among these facilities are a small group of rehabilitation institutions that drive the future of rehabilitation care and medicine, as well as patient recovery.  This unique category of inpatient rehabilitation institutions conduct innovative research to advance the field of rehabilitation care, train the next generation of doctors, and treat the most complex conditions, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, childhood disease, burns, and wartime injuries.  

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined Durbin and Cassidy as an original sponsor of the legislation. A companion version of the bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9).

Specifically, the Dr. Joanne Smith Memorial Rehabilitation Innovation Centers Act: 

  • Defines “Rehabilitation Innovation Center” as a rehabilitation facility that provides care for patients with highly complex conditions, conducts multidisciplinary rehabilitation research, and educates a high number of medical residents.
  • Directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to disseminate best practices and lessons from these facilities and conduct a study on actions to preserve patient access to Rehabilitation Innovation Centers.  As our federal health care system moves away from the fee-for-service payment model toward more value-based care, the study directed by this legislation will shape the future direction of post-acute care.

Joanne C. Smith, MD, was a visionary leader and the driving force behind transforming the delivery of care in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Dr. Smith was President and Chief Executive Officer of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, or RIC) since 2006. She led the organization in its mission to provide the best patient outcomes through the highest-quality clinical care, translational research, scientific discovery and education.  In addition to her leadership at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Dr. Smith was a faculty member at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a member of several professional organizations.