133 Bipartisan Lawmakers Agree: We Must Save Home Health

133 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives recently expressed their deep concern with proposed Medicare home health funding cuts in a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt.


In June, CMS released the Home Health Prospective Payment System (HHPPS) proposed rule for 2016, in which the agency proposes to cut an additional $350 million from the Medicare program’s home healthcare benefit on top of the 14 percent rebasing cut imposed on the home health benefit in January 2014.

Cuts of this nature are troubling to lawmakers and the home health community alike.

If enacted, the cuts would put small and rural home health agencies – and their patients—at greatest risk. In areas where there is only one agency, data suggest closures will likely force patients to seek care in more expensive institutional settings or, far worse, avoid treatment all together. As data from Avalere shows, the Medicare beneficiaries served by home health are older, sicker, poorer and are more likely to be female, a minority, and disabled than all other beneficiaries in the Medicare program combined.

We applaud Representatives Greg Walden, Tom Price, Earl Blumenhauer and James McGovern for their leadership on this important senior care issue and thank their 129 House colleagues for taking action to protect seniors’ access to vital home health services. We look forward to our continued work with both Congress and CMS to ensure policies are put forth that protect cost-effective and clinically advanced healthcare services for seniors in the setting they prefer – their home.



Happy National Seniors Citizens Day!

Today is National Seniors Citizens Day! Across the country, home health professionals are celebrating our seniors by providing cost effective, clinically advanced care to more than 3.5 million Medicare patients in the setting they prefer.

As Ronald Reagan said when signing the National Seniors Day proclamation:

“We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older — places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.”

Many healthcare treatments that were only offered in a hospital or a physician’s office when President Reagan signed this proclamation can now be safely, effectively, and efficiently provided in patients’ homes by skilled clinicians.

The home health community is proud to be an active participant in providing the services our seniors need to age in place as so many prefer.

Home Health Care Services are at Risk for Rural America

Funding cuts made to Medicare home health in recent years are hurting home health providers and their patients across the country, particularly those operating in rural areas.

Powell Valley Home Care and Hospice (PVHC) has offered home health and hospice services in northwest Wyoming since 1989, but the company recently announced plans to permanently close its doors and say goodbye to their patients.

In recent years, Powell Valley Health Care’s home care and hospice services have operated at an annual loss of nearly $400,000 as a result of significant decreases in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

PVHC is not alone in this financial struggle to provide care to Medicare’s most vulnerable seniors, especially those residing in rural communities. According to Avalere Health, 26 rural counties relied on a single home health agency in 2013, and an additional 27 counties were served by just two providers. All told, more than 631,000 Medicare beneficiaries in nearly 2,000 rural counties relied on home healthcare services in 2013.

The PVHC closure exemplifies the financial stress that rural home healthcare providers are experiencing as a result of recent Medicare cuts, which in turn threaten access for rural patients.

Despite the financial instability facing rural home health providers, the federal Medicare program is once again calling for deeper cuts.  Agencies could face another $350 million in cuts as part of the proposed Home Health Prospective Payment System (HHPPS) changes for 2016.

If more cuts are allowed to take place, further closures and patient dislocation will spread across the country, jeopardizing the health and well being of America’s most vulnerable elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries.

Home Health Programs Improve Care & Save Money

A recent report by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) revealed what we’ve known for over 20 years – home-based care for the highest utilizers of Medicare services delivers quality care at a lower cost.

Yesterday CMS announced that a demonstration program to increase in-home primary care for patients with chronic conditions resulted in $25 million in savings for Medicare in its first year of a three-year study. The program seeks to determine the value of home-based primary care for frail seniors with multiple chronic illnesses by avoiding pricier hospital and emergency room care.

CMS found that the overall savings achieved averaged around $3,070 per beneficiary. Patients also experienced fewer hospital readmissions within 30 days and used hospital emergency departments less frequently for conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and pneumonia.

This report is the latest of illustrate the clinical and fiscal value of home healthcare for Medicare’s sickest patients:

Programs such as Medicare’s Independence at Home demonstration project will continue to confirm what home health advocates, providers and their patients already know: home health provides cost effective, clinically advanced, and patient preferred care.

Celebrate Men’s Health Month

This month we join health care providers, public policy makers, the media, and others in celebrating Men’s Health Month. Anchored by a Congressional health education program, Men’s Health Month is celebrated throughout the country with screenings, health fairs, media appearances, and other health education activities.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 9.13.38 AMThe goal? To increase awareness of preventable health problems and encourage earlydetection and treatment of disease among men.

This year’s theme mirrors the last: Awareness. Prevention. Education. Family. 

Home healthcare helps provide quality care for over 1.4 million men in their own homes by skilled and highly trained clinicians. Awareness and prevention are key to keeping Medicare home health patients healthy and happy at home!

Be Aware: Not all Medicare beneficiaries know that home healthcare is available –an option that lets patients be treated where they’re most comfortable. Learn if you’re eligible for Medicare coverage of home healthcare and find out more about your options.

Get Treated: 86% of home health users have three or more chronic conditions.  Home healthcare helps patients avoid the risk of hospitalization including infection, delirium, depression, infection, and functional decline. Studies have shown that the frail and elderly have a 23.3% risk of being unable to return home after even a very short hospitalization.

Get the Facts: Approximately 59.2% of Medicare beneficiaries receiving home healthcare have an annual income under $25,000. This skyrockets to 81% for minority populations. Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare is helping to ensure that skilled home health services remain an option for those who need them most. Check out the issues we’re working on with Congress to make sure that home healthcare remains a priority.

For many men, home healthcare plays an important part in ensuring quality, preventative care in the most comfortable space: Home. Together, we can continue advocating for Congress to meet seniors’ needs and reducing American healthcare costs through home healthcare.

Protecting Home Health for Rural Seniors

Asher Home Health Services is the only home healthcare provider serving its rural Oregon community. And for years – just like so many providers nationwide – it has delivered consistently high quality and cost-effective care in the settings seniors prefer most – their own home.  However, as a result of Medicare rebasing cuts, Asher Home Health has been forced to take extraordinary steps to keep its doors open and help seniors avoid institutionalization in distant facilities.

Asher’s experience will become increasingly common unless immediate action is taken. According to a new Avalere Health study, despite the proven benefits of home healthcare, many providers are now facing severe financial hardship, largely due to “rebasing” cuts set to take effect through 2017.

Specifically, the Avalere study revealed that overall margins for large home health companies averaged just 2.4 percent in 2014, falling by two-thirds since 2010.  Industry experts warn that the plight facing small and rural home health agencies – just like Asher Home Health Services – may be even more severe, especially as small home health agencies typically experience lower margins compared to larger providers.

This is particularly dangerous as more than 631,000 Medicare beneficiaries in nearly 2,000 rural counties relied on home healthcare services in 2013, according to Avalere.  Moreover, 26 rural counties relied on a single home health agency in 2013, and an additional 27 counties were served by just two providers.

Ultimately, research shows that when cuts lead to closures, Medicare’s most vulnerable patient population is put at risk. Additional data compiled by Avalere reveals that Medicare’s 3.5 million home health beneficiaries are older, sicker, poorer and are more likely to be female, a minority, and disabled than all other beneficiaries in the Medicare program combined.  In other words, millions of our most vulnerable Americans stand to lose from cuts to home health.

We at the Partnership will continue to fight to protect home healthcare patients and the skilled providers on whom they depend.  And we urge you to join us in support of critical of legislation that can make the difference for those who need it most.


Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, we honor the servicemen and women who lost their lives defending our country and bravely protecting the freedoms we enjoy each day.  We are all truly indebted to their service – as we are to the service of all veterans.

Throughout the years, home health agencies have worked to improve the health and quality of life of those who once risked their lives for our nation’s wellbeing.

Nearly 45 years ago, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established the Home Based Primary Care (HBPC) program to provide comprehensive primary care services to veterans in their homes. Since then, elderly vets have reaped the many benefits of high quality home healthcare. HPBC has significantly reduced preventable emergency room visits and inpatient hospital days for veterans, enabling aging veterans to receive care in a preferred setting: their home.

Witnessing the powerful effect of home healthcare, the VA decided to expand access to in 2014 through the establishment of the Caregiver Support Program – a vital initiative which aids family members caring for veterans.  While these are important successes, more can always be done for our nation’s veterans.

We at the Partnership will continue to work towards policies that improve quality-of-care and quality-of-life for all seniors – including veterans – throughout the country.  As we honor true American heroes this Monday, we encourage everyone to join us in our increasingly important mission to guarantee the health and happiness of our nation’s veterans.



We Applaud the Introduction of the BACPAC Act

The Partnership applauds the introduction of legislation that will further bolster the high quality care that home heath patients receive. The Bundling and Coordinating Post-Acute Care Act – called BACPAC for short – is a huge step for millions of Americans recovering from injury or illness following hospitalization.

This bill would ensure that patients have access to a range of vital post-acute care services, such as home health, for approximately three months following their hospital stay.  Importantly, the bill also strengthens care coordination amongst caretakers in each setting.  Therefore, if a patient were to return from a rehabilitation center to the comfort of their home, past caretakers would be able to communicate with home health providers to ensure the best possible outcomes.

In addition to high-level care, the bill will have an immediate impact on our patient’s pocket books.  Care coordination means highly efficient care, as tests and treatments won’t be unnecessarily repeated.  Patients also avoid costly hospital readmissions, which will save Medicare billions of dollars each year.

We commend Reps. David McKinley, Jerry McNerney and Tom Price on their introduction of this critical legislation, and call on their colleagues in Congress to support BACPAC for their constituents who rely on post-acute care every day.

In healthcare, the patient should always come first.  BACPAC is a rare “win-win,” serving American patients and the health delivery system at the same time.  We are proud to support this legislation!

Learn more about the BACPAC Act:


New Data Shows Decline in Hospital Readmissions for Home Health Patients

The Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation has worked with Avalere to release an updated Home Health Chartbook, providing a broad overview of home health patients, the home health workforce, organizational trends, and the economic contribution of home health agencies.

The updated analysis of America’s home health population and industry highlights a number of positive trends with regards to both quality and patient outcomes since the 2013 data was released.

The study revealed that in the past year patients got markedly better at walking or moving around and had less pain when doing so.  Patients also experienced improved breathing and were better able to both bathe and take drugs correctly.

In addition to elevated patient outcomes, home health teams met superior quality measures more frequently.  Indeed, a staggering 99% of providers met quality standards for checking patients for the risk of developing pressure bedsores.  Moreover, 98% achieved high standards for monitoring a patients’ risk of falling.

Across the board, Americans benefited from improvements to the delivery of high quality home health care.  Amazingly, home healthcare already allows millions of seniors to receive highly effective care in a patient’s preferred setting – their own home.  Now, it is only getting better.

We will continue to fight for Americans already reaping the benefits of home health, and ensure that there is only more good news to come.

Our New Year’s Resolution: Protect America’s Seniors

With a new year comes a new opportunity to improve the integrity, quality, and efficiency of home health for our nation’s seniors. As Congress returns to work, we urge our nation’s lawmakers to continue protecting patients through support of the Securing Access Via Excellence (SAVE) Medicare Home Health Act.

Introduced last year (as H.R. 5110), the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act would repeal devastating cuts to the Medicare home health benefit implemented through the Affordable Care Act. If enacted, the bill would enable millions of seniors to remain in their homes, receiving highly effective care in a patient’s preferred setting.

Last legislative session, 40 sponsors and cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives supported this vital legislation to the continued delivery of quality home healthcare. We at the Partnership would like to personally thank each Member for standing up for some of America’s most vulnerable patients.

However, there is much more to be done. The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act must be re-introduced for consideration by the 114th Congress. Fortunately, the health and well being of our seniors is truly a cause we can all support.

Therefore, our New Year’s resolution is simple: protect patients and combat harmful cuts to home health. We hope our lawmakers will help us to make this possible!