Remembering the Importance of Home for Our Seniors Around the Holidays

As families around the country gather to celebrate the holidays this year, giving gifts and spending quality time with loved ones, it’s important to reflect on the importance of home and the comfort and security it provides.

For many American seniors, nothing is more important than being able to remain at home while recovering from illness or injury.  And thanks to home healthcare, more than 3.5 million seniors now have that option. Home is comfortable. Home is where the family is. And home is where seniors want to be – especially around the holidays!

475860502At the Partnership, we work hard every day to ensure that seniors have the choice to receive care in their preferred setting. We understand that recovery is stressful enough as it is and shouldn’t be made worse by having to receive care in an unfamiliar environment.

So this holiday season, take some time to thank the dedicated doctors, nurses, and home health aides who work around the clock to make sure seniors can enjoy their golden years in the comfortable, secure, and peaceful atmosphere home provides. And remember, that for some, being able to enjoy the holidays at home, surrounded by friends and family, is the greatest gift of all.

Have a safe, happy and healthy holidays from your friends at the Partnership!

Congress Must Enact the PUSH Act to Protect Seniors Home Healthcare

As Congress wraps up for the year, the Partnership is again calling on Congress to enact the Pre-Claim Undermines Seniors’ Health (PUSH) Act of 2016, which would delay the implementation of the home health pre-claim review demonstration until Medicare and home health agencies are prepared to manage the process without disrupting care delivery.

Since the program was first rolled out in Illinois this summer, providers across the state have run into numerous delays and technical problems – including improper care denials and issues using the Medicare Administrative Coordinators (MAC) electronic submission system. This led to longer wait times and unnecessary delays in patient services.

The PUSH Act, orginially introduced by Reps. Tom Price, MD (R-GA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), would delay pre-claim review for one year to allow Congress, CMS,  and home health stakeholders to figure out how to strengthen the program through proper education and training. You can find out more about the bill here.

Fortunately, pre-claim review has already been temporarily suspended in several other states where it was slated to roll out. The PUSH Act would delay the pre-claim review for the rest of the country, and stop the program underway in Illinois.

The bill also calls on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to analyze the impact of the program and present a series of alternative measures for combating home health claims fraud – the original purpose of pre-claim review.

There is still time for you to help protect vulnerable seniors who depend on home health seniors – contact your member of Congress today and asking him or her to support this bill!  Click below to get started:

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National Seniors Poll Signals Opposition to Pre-Claim Review Policy

Recent data sponsored by Bring The Vote Home (BTVH) found that the large majority of U.S. seniors oppose Medicare policy that requires a government contractor to approve claims for physician-prescribed home healthcare services — those often recommended by doctors for elderly patients following hospitalization.

While the data is concerning, as it proves that the majority of seniors oppose the recently implemented “pre-claim review” demonstration by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), we are not at all surprised that the senior population opposes government intervention when it comes to a patient’s health.

Healthcare decisions should be made by a physician and a patient — the federal government’s intervention only complicates, interferes and upsets the process.

The poll found that more than four-out-of-five seniors, 83 percent to be exact, of U.S. seniors think physicians should have the final word when prescribing home health. Because after all, a doctor knows significantly more about an individual patient’s situation than a government contractor.

Other key take-aways:

  • Seniors think requiring a government contractor to approve claims for home health will result in care delays.
  • Seniors think requiring a government contractor to approve care will increase costs – to both the patient and Medicare.
  • Seniors most trust doctors and nurses to handle issues related to their healthcare.

The Partnership continues to monitor the impacts of the “pre-claim review” requirement as it is implemented this month in Illinois.  In the meantime, we urge CMS to consider this data and the clearly expressed patient opinion that government interference in healthcare is wrong.

Home Health Leaders Applaud Introduction of Independence at Home Act

The Partnership commends U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) for introducing the Independence at Home Act, which will convert the Independence at Home (IAH) demonstration into a permanent national Medicare program.

The legislation has been lauded across the home health community for bringing primary medical services to Medicare beneficiaries with chronic and debilitating conditions in the comfort of their own homes. The Partnership previously praised the Independence at Home program for saving an estimated $25 million in its first year, or an estimated $3,070 per beneficiary, underscoring the value of home health services for aging Americans.

The program enables doctors and caregivers to provide primary care services to those in need of care at home, thereby reducing the number of unnecessary emergency room visits and avoidable hospitalizations and readmissions, and their associated costs.

The bill provides beneficiaries access to quality home care, giving them better control of their health and putting families at ease, while lowering healthcare costs.  The Partnership thanks these lawmakers for recognizing the value of home-based care and urges the Congress to work with home health providers to develop additional programs to protect patient access to care in the home.

Home Health Value Kit: The Human, Clinical and Fiscal Value of the Skilled Medicare Home Health Benefit

We are pleased to release a new Home Health Value Kit: a guide that provides comprehensive information on the value of the Medicare home health benefit. Home healthcare provides clinically advanced, cost effective post-acute and chronic care management in the setting patients desire most – their home. So it’s critical for lawmakers, their staff, and other stakeholders to understand the benefits it has for patients, taxpayers and the Medicare program. Continue reading for a quick look into the kit and the information it offers:

Overview

This kit contains thorough information regarding home healthcare, from details about what home health care is, who receives it, information about the Partnership, and an outline of the human, clinical and fiscal value of the Medicare home healthcare benefit. You can also learn more about how you can support and empower the senior population through Bring The Vote Home, a national initiative designed to collect seniors’ opinions on a wide range of issues while simultaneously empowering both seniors and disabled Americans to engage fully in America’s electoral process.

Quick Facts

Human Value of Home Health

Home health patients are older, poorer and sicker than the Medicare population as a whole:

  • 4% of home health Medicare beneficiaries are older than 85
  • 2% live with five or more chronic conditions
  • 2% live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty level

Clinical Value of Home Health

Patients in high quality home health and home-based care programs experience:

  • 26% fewer acute care hospitalizations
  • 59% fewer hospital bed days
  • A total of 19-30% savings in medical costs

Fiscal Value of Home Health

Skilled home healthcare is widely recognized as cost effective:

  • Medicare saves an average of $5,411 if home healthcare is the first post-acute setting utilized after a patient receives major joint replacement.
  • The average cost of care in a skilled nursing facility is $449 per day or $26,940 for a 60-day stay compared to $2,674 for a 60-day home health episode.

Want to learn more?

To view the kit in its entirety, click here.

Bring the Vote Home Releases New Polling Data & Launches a New Website

One year out from the 2016 general elections, Bring The Vote Home has released the results of new polling data, which surveyed more than 2,000 registered voters over age 65.

This polling data revealed that American seniors want a candidate who will be an advocate for them on issues specific to those over 65, including healthcare. The poll also concluded that individual states have room to improve helping seniors cast their vote, with only four in 10 seniors indicating their state does a good job educating homebound seniors on how to register or obtain an absentee ballot.

For this reason, Bring The Vote Home has also launch a brand new website to offer seniors, disabled Americans, and their healthcare clinicians the information they need to register to vote and receive an absentee ballot!

Bring The Vote Home was originally developed so that Medicare home health patients (who are homebound) could fully participate in the democratic process. BTVH has expanded to offer additional resources, including information about their lawmakers’ views on home health and senior polling data on the views and opinions of American seniors.

Learn more about Bring The Vote Home by visiting the new website and from the infographic below:

Happy National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month, which is a time to recognize the valuable role family caregivers play in the lives of America’s home health patients.  Many of Medicare’s home health patients are able to remain at home – and out of institutional settings – while receiving essential care services because of the collective support of home health professionals and their family caregivers.

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Nearly 89% of seniors say they want to age in place, or live independently and remain in their own homes while receiving care. However, home health patients are more likely to live and they are also some of the poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable beneficiaries in the Medicare program, underscoring the critical importance of family caregivers.

Without family caregivers, it would be much more difficult to coordinate and provide the care our seniors need and deserve – and we want to say thank you!

Our friends at the Caregiver Action Network have many tools to help family caregivers.  There are many ways you can learn more about the role family caregivers play for home healthcare patients and how you can say thanks, including:

  1. Hear stories from family caregivers or submit your own
  2. Read through the Caregiver Action Network family caregiver toolbox
  3. Visit a forum to discuss issues caregivers deal with frequently

 

 

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.

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.

The 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.