Durbin, Cassidy Introduce Legislation To Support Leading Rehab Facilities

Bipartisan legislation to recognize innovative medical research and rehabilitation care facilities

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) today introduced 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 medical training to students, and serving 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 this month.

“Dr. Joanne Smith was a passionate, visionary leader whose innovation propelled Shirley Ryan to be the gold standard in its field.  Like Dr. Smith, the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is a national treasure in the world of rehabilitation medicine.  This legislation recognizes and supports the work of top facilities nationwide focused on cutting-edge research, training new medical professionals, and providing quality care to patients with serious complex health conditions,” said Durbin.

“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 in cosponsoring today’s legislation. A companion version of the bill will soon be 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 the adequacy of current payment rates for 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 analysis of reimbursement for post-acute care providers and Rehabilitation Innovation Centers.

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.