Durbin, Cassidy, Schakowksy, Lahood Legislation To Support Leading Rehab Hospitals Heads To President’s Desk

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), along with U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9) and Darin LaHood (R-IL-18) applauded House 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 hospitals 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 in Chicago—the nation’s top-ranked rehab hospital since 1991—until her passing last year. The bipartisan legislation passed the Senate two weeks ago and now heads to President Biden’s desk for signature.

“Dr. Joanne Smith was a passionate, visionary leader whose innovation propelled Shirley Ryan to be the gold standard in its field—providing hope to veterans with injuries, individuals with disabilities, children with birth defects, and many others,” 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 condition.  I’m thrilled our bill overwhelmingly passed the House and now heads to the President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. 

“Glad to see our legislation cross the finish line to support 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.” 

"With the passage of the Dr. Joanne Smith Memorial Rehabilitation Innovation Centers Act of 2022, Congress has taken a major step to federally recognize Rehabilitation Innovation Centers across the country, ensuring that industry best practices and cutting-edge research is disseminated broadly to ensure the maximum number of patients can benefit," said Schakowsky. “The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago goes above and beyond to treat patients with the most complex rehabilitation needs. Whether it is a traumatic brain injury or a third-degree burn, patients receive world class care. I was proud to co-lead this bipartisan legislation with Senator Durbin, Senator Cassidy, and Congressman LaHood. Dr. Joanne Smith, the former President and CEO of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, devoted her entire career to helping patients, it is fitting that we honor her legacy with this legislation."

“In Illinois, we are proud to be home to a robust healthcare community, including inpatient rehabilitation specialists like the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago, that is a national leader in advancing innovation, research, and technology,” said LaHood. “Recognizing and identifying the unique recovery and rehabilitation needs of patients in both rural and urban communities in Illinois remains vital in keeping patients out of high cost and acute care settings. Our bipartisan bill, the Dr. Joanne Smith Memorial Rehab Act, will strengthen inpatient rehabilitation services and expand access and support for patients, families, and caregivers in Illinois. I am proud to see it become law.”   

“We applaud Sen. Durbin, Sen. Cassidy, Rep. Schakowsky, Rep. LaHood, Rep. Davis, Rep. Brady, Rep. Graves and the many other senators, representatives and staffers who have helped make the Dr. Joanne Smith Memorial Rehabilitation Innovation Centers Act a reality,” said Nancy Paridy, president and chief administrative officer, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.“By formally designating a cohort of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals as industry leaders in research and teaching, these organizations will in turn advance innovation and technology, disseminating best practices broadly throughout the field to positively impact patients' recoveries. This effort was near and dear to our former president and CEO, Dr. Joanne C. Smith, and her legacy will continue to live on through it.” 

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, along with Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL-7) and several other bipartisan members. 

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

  • Defines in statute “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.