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:

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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!

Giving Thanks This Holiday Season

As families and friends gather around the table for Thanksgiving this year, it is important to remember why we are thankful.
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For many Americans, there is nothing more important than the choice to remain at home.  Home is comfortable. Home is close to family. And home is where most people want to be, especially as they grow older.

Home healthcare helps deliver the indelible gift of home to millions of American seniors each year.  Dynamic teams of doctors, nurses, therapists and aides provide quality care in a patient’s preferred setting – offering peace of mind and tangible results.

At the Partnership, we work every day to ensure that Americans who are thankful for all that home has to offer have the choice to receive care in the best possible setting.

So this Thanksgiving, reflect upon the memories of years past.  Consider the joy of the holidays.  And most importantly, remember that home – and the security it provides – is something we must all be grateful for.

We certainly will.

Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving from your friends at the Partnership!

Home Health Honors Veterans by Providing The Care They Need in a Setting They Prefer

On Veterans Day, it is important that Americans everywhere pause and consider the great sacrifice of our nation’s servicemen and women.  Even against great odds, they have defended our way of life with valor and steadfast devotion.

Yet, veterans deserve our unbridled support for much more than a single day.  And that begins with ensuring our nation’s heroes access to quality, cost-efficient, and dignified care – especially as they grow older. Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 10.16.39 AM

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established the Home Based Primary Care (HBPC) program in 1972 to provide comprehensive primary care services to veterans in their homes.

HPBC has significantly reduced preventable emergency room visits and inpatient hospital days for veterans, resulting in a 24 percent decrease in total healthcare costs. The VA expanded access to home healthcare earlier this year through the establishment of the Caregiver Support Program, engaging Caregiver Support Coordinators to assist family caregivers of veterans and providing services to aid in caring for their loved ones

Home healthcare has clearly become one of the single most important aspects of care for veterans.  And while there is no way to fully repay the debt we owe to those who served our country, we can continue to give back by providing necessary care in the best possible setting.

Indeed, every day is Veteran’s Day in the home health community, as we dedicate ourselves to improving the lives of those who defended ours.

Looking Forward to Election Day: America’s Most Active Voting Block

With Election Day just a few hours away, policymakers and thought leaders must take note of America’s most active and politically aware voting block: senior citizens.

Senior citizens play a clear, and absolutely critical role in future direction of America.  And their ballots will directly impact the defining policy decisions of the next decade.

For many seniors, the principal issue of the 2014 elections is healthcare.  And as more Americans become eligible for Medicare coverage each day, there is a heightened focus on – and concern about – Medicare policy issues. As a result, seniors are very attuned to changes that could undermine the healthcare services and providers upon which they depend.

And cuts to home healthcare will be chief amongst those changes.

Using the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration cut Medicare home health funding by an unprecedented 14 percent at the start of this year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) admitted that “approximately 40 percent” of all home healthcare providers in America would be operating at a loss by the end of 2017 as a result of this cut.

As a result, thousands of providers may be forced to close their doors if this cut stands uncorrected, directly impacting 1.3 million American seniors and costing the jobs of 465,000 home healthcare professionals, according to Avalere Health.

While 38 lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on to legislation that would stop the Medicare home health cut and replace it with sustainable Medicare payment reforms, there is still much work to be done to ensure the future health of our seniors.

Therefore, the future of Medicare home health home health will be defined, in part, by how seniors vote when they mail their ballots from home or enter the voting booths tomorrow.  After all, the sustainability of home health significantly depends on public officials who truly understand the wishes of their constituents and fight for the wellbeing of senior citizens across the nation.