Happy Citizenship Day

September 17 is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, commemorating the signing of the United States Constitution 227 years ago today.

Being a citizen of the United States comes with many rights – and none is more important than our right to vote.

Voting is an easy task for many Americans, but it can be difficult for our homebound seniors who rely on Medicare’s home health benefit to receive quality, skilled care at home. This November, it is especially important for Medicare’s most vulnerable patients to make their voice heard. On January 1, 2014, the Medicare home health benefit was hit with an unprecedented 14 percent cut over the next 4 years, placing millions of patients, hard working medical professionals, and small businesses at risk.

Although they cannot vote at the polls in person, we can help by bringing the vote home to America’s 3.5 million Medicare home health patients.

The video below from Bring the Vote Home gives patients, caregivers, advocates, and clinicians the tools to register, obtain absentee ballots, and submit ballots from home!

Help Bring the Vote Home for Our Seniors

Every election season, it is important for Americans to exercise their right vote. However, for some Americans, this can be a challenge.

The 3.5 million seniors and individuals with disabilities served by the Medicare home health benefit are considered homebound, and therefore cannot travel to polling locations.

This November, it is especially important for Medicare’s poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable patients to make their voice heard. Recently, Medicare slated the home health benefit to be cut by 14 percent over the next 4 years, placing at risk millions of patients and hard working professionals as well as thousands of American small businesses.

While many of our patients cannot vote in person, we can help them get to the polls by bringing the vote home. The video below highlights an initiative that gives patients, caregivers, advocates, and clinicians the tools to register, obtain absentee ballots, and submit ballots from home!

Report: New Data Show Home-Based Care Saves Medicare Money

A study conducted by MedStar Washington Hospital Center found that home-based primary care incurred 17 percent lower overall Medicare costs over a course of two years.

The report published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society found patients who received home-based care had:

  • 10 percent fewer ER visits,
  • 9 percent fewer hospitalizations, and
  • 27 percent fewer stays in a nursing home.

The study comes at an interesting time, when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently imposed cuts of 14 percent on the Medicare home health benefit as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The results add confusion to an already unprecedented, value-blind decision to cut cost-effective programs for our country’s most vulnerable patients – and it lends serious weight to objections to these cuts.

Eric De Jonge, MD, co-founder of the Medical House Call program at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, discussed the study in more detail in the video below:

Happy Birthday, Medicare!

Forty-nine years ago today, the Medicare program was established.

For nearly half a century, Medicare has provided access to quality, comprehensive healthcare to Americans 65 and older without fear of bankruptcy.

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Today, home health is one of the most important benefits included in the Medicare program, providing care to 3.5 million of the poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable beneficiaries in the country.

However, rebasing cuts from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (as a result of the Affordable Care Act), threaten the future of home healthcare services.

As we reflect on 49 years of progress, we must remember to protect Medicare for the Medicare senior populations of today and tomorrow.

You can help to protect Medicare and the home health benefit by asking your lawmaker to support the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act and by sending a letter to your local paper to remind others how important this Medicare benefit is for senior and disabled Americans!

Lawmakers, Media, and Community Leaders Agree: We Must Save Home Health!

On July 15, Representatives Greg Walden (OR-2) and Tom Price (GA-6) introduced the Securing Access Via Excellence (SAVE) Medicare Home Health Act to protect America’s seniors.

This bill replaces the unprecedented Medicare rebasing cuts with payment reform to achieve savings by improving care for Medicare beneficiaries and reducing avoidable spending on preventable hospital readmissions. In doing so, the bill would enable millions of seniors to remain in their homes, rather than institutional settings, achieving significant savings for the Medicare program.

In the two weeks since the bill’s introduction, media outlets, lawmakers, and leaders from senior, rural and caregiving communities across the country have joined in support of this important legislation.

Below are some highlights of the support we have seen thus far. You can take action to save home healthcare on Twitter using #SaveHomeHealth, or by sending a letter to your lawmaker in Congress today!

 

Celebrate Men’s Health Week

This week we celebrate Men’s Health Week with people across the country. This year’s theme is “Awareness. Prevention. Education. Family.”

We are thankful for this movement that encourages men to seek medical care and lead healthy, preventative lifestyles. Yet, what better way to honor the men in our lives than to make sure that they can always receive care in the setting they prefer?

Keeping in line with the Men’s Health Week theme, we encourage all Americans, particularly Medicare patients and their loved ones, to:

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BE AWARE: Unfortunately, not all Medicare patients know skilled home healthcare is even an option. Know the options – Skilled care can be provided in the comfort and security of a patient’s home.

EDUCATE YOURSELF:  Learn more about the issues impacting your healthcare. Medicare cuts put home health at risk.  Over the next four years, the Medicare home health benefit will be cut 14 percent by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  Encourage your lawmakers to protect home health!

PREVENT AVOIDABLE HOSPITAL STAYS: Home health is critical to preventing expensive hospitalizations and other facility-based care for Medicare beneficiaries by helping patients manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and congestive heart failure.

BE WITH FAMILY: Home health is keeping America’s fathers and husbands home where they want to be.

Let’s stand by the 1.4 million male Medicare beneficiaries who depend on home health by advocating to protect the clinical care services that bring home prevention and improved health.

Celebrating National Women’s Health Week

Each year, the Department of Health and Human Services kicks off National Women’s Health Week following Mother’s Day. This year, they are focusing on the theme of “Becoming Well Women.”

While this week serves as a great opportunity for healthcare providers to think about ways to help women stay healthy, home healthcare providers are already focusing on caring for women in America every day of the year.

In fact, the nation’s home health community is largely made up of women. A recent Avalere analysis shows women make up:

  • 90% of home health professionals
  • 75% of family caregivers
  • 60% of home health beneficiaries

Particularly for women in their senior years, home healthcare can provide necessary care so patients are able to remain independent at home.  The Medicare home healthcare offers these patients access to clinically advanced, cost-effective care in the home that can keep women well by preventing further injuries and illnesses.

While home healthcare offers services, support, and resources to 2.1 million senior women year-round, National Women’s Health Week offers an opportunity for us to remember and honor the female patients we serve, their care teams and the important role home health has in helping them be well women!

Celebrating Older Americans Month

Each May, we join the nation in celebrating Older Americans Month to recognize older Americans for their contributions and discuss ways to help them stay healthy. This year, the Administration for Community Living is focusing on injury prevention with the theme “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.”

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Older Americans are at a higher risk of injury than the rest of our population, but home healthcare can help them stay safe, healthy, and independent well into their golden years.

Skilled home health offers a wide range of care for patients who are homebound or in need of skilled care, including: post-acute care, skilled nursing care for chronic conditions, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, medical social services, and assistance with daily living.

Since the vast majority of seniors (89%) say they want to age in place (i.e., live independently and remain in their home), we must ensure that they can do so in a safe and healthy manner. Home healthcare can be instrumental in preventing unintentional injuries and unnecessary hospitalizations for our seniors.

While home healthcare provides services, support, and resources to 3.5 million seniors year-round, Older Americans Month offers an opportunity for us to remember and honor the patients we serve and the important role home health has in helping them improve their health today and a better tomorrow.

Home Health Sector Sees the Largest Job Loss in More than a Decade

 

The December Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs report projects that 3,700 home health jobs were lost in December, demonstrating the biggest loss in home health jobs in more than a decade. Leaders in the home health community have warned these cuts are directly related to the unprecedented 14 percent cut to the Medicare home health benefit, which went into effect on January 1.

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This new report confirms what senior advocates have been concerned about – this deep 14 percent cut will negatively impact millions of American seniors, their families and needed healthcare jobs.

As the unprecedented cut to Medicare home health starts to take effect, 40 percent of all home health agencies are projected to end up operating at a loss.  These agencies may be forced to reduce staff, limit patient services, file bankruptcy or close their doors completely. Avalere Health projects that a total of 500,000 home healthcare jobs could be lost.

As a result, nearly 1.5 million seniors could lose access to the high-quality, cost-effective home health services they need, and taxpayer costs will therefore rise as medical services are instead delivered in more costly institutional settings.

Medicare home health services are delivered to approximately 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries, who are documented as being poorer, older, sicker, and more likely from a minority population than other Medicare beneficiaries.

These cuts should be stopped to protect access to care for our most vulnerable seniors.

 

 

 

What the Home Health Rule Means For Providers & Patients

Despite the concerns expressed by more than 200 bipartisan Members of Congress, leading senior advocacy organizations, patients, and providers, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) chose to cut Medicare home health payments to the fullest extent allowed by the Affordable Care Act. These cuts, at 3.5% per year, total an unprecedented cut to Medicare home health funding of 14% between 2014-2017.

Cuts of this magnitude have never been seen before. CMS itself admits that approximately 40 percent of all home health agencies will experience negative Medicare margins by the time these cuts fully take effect in 2017.

These cuts directly impact homebound seniors in rural and underserved communities who are among the Medicare program’s oldest, sickest, and poorest beneficiaries. Because home healthcare providers care for Medicare’s most vulnerable patients, adequate Medicare funding is especially critical.  In home health – unlike other healthcare sectors – private pay and Medicaid can’t be used to offset Medicare losses. Therefore, net losses in nearly half the nation’s home health agencies will inevitably lead to closures across the country, compromising the care nearly 3.5 million vulnerable seniors depend on to remain in their homes.

While the Final Rule could have devastating consequences for the home health sector, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has the authority to revise the rebasing cut to protect seniors’ access to home health.  The Secretary should update the rule because:

  • The cut directly targets 3.5 million homebound seniors, who are older, sicker, poorer, and more likely to be a minority than the typical Medicare beneficiary.
  • Approximately 40 percent of all home health agencies will experiences negative Medicare margins by the time these cuts fully take effect in 2017.
  • Negative Medicare home health margins will lead to closure of provider facilities, therefore limiting beneficiary access to patient-preferred home health.

Without action from the Secretary, access to clinically advanced, cost-effective and patient preferred care is in real danger.