Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and many Americans will be making their way home to spend quality time with family and friends. And while there is much to be thankful for, perhaps “home” might be the most important of all.
November is National Home Care and Hospice Month, a time dedicated to preserving andrecognizing the need for home health and hospice, while giving thanks to the many dedicated skilled nurses, therapists, and aides across the United States who care for our homebound seniors.
Home healthcare is not only the preferred choice of most seniors; it also provides the most value. Seniors who rely on Medicare for vital home care services costs an average of $44 per day, compared to hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars per day for care in costlier settings. With baby boomers becoming eligible for Medicare last year, home health services are poised to play a key role in the coming years.
Despite its bright future, home health services are facing deep Medicare cuts by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This past summer, CMS proposed cuts of 14 percent totaling about $21.5 billion, which do not include over $72 billion in prior funding cuts to the home health community since 2009.
Drastically reduced reimbursements for home care would be devastating for the more than 3.5 million seniors and disabled Americans who rely on Medicare’s home health benefit. So while thinking of home and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, please take just a few moments to join the thousands who have already written letters to lawmakers in Washington D.C., urging the President to protect seniors from the impact of home health cuts. Click here to write the Obama Administration to ask it to protect funding for home healthcare for America’s seniors.
In June, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a draft regulation that proposes to deeply cut Medicare funding for home healthcare services. Cuts of this severity could threaten the delivery of quality skilled home health services for Medicare’s most vulnerable beneficiaries.
As home healthcare providers and patients wait to see whether the rule will be finalized in its current form, lawmakers and fellow advocates are standing up for home healthcare.
Bipartisan Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and David McKinley (R-WV) recently spoke out against these cuts together in a joint op-ed published in Roll Call. The lawmakers wrote:
“Home health care is a vital solution to improving patient health while also decreasing costs. Home health allows patients to receive low-cost care in the safety of their homes, which reduces Medicare expenditures in more expensive institutional care settings. That’s why we believe Medicare should support and encourage the delivery of home health care.
“We are concerned that a proposed rule issued by the Medicare agency will do just the opposite.”
More than 200 bipartisan members of Congress share their concerns and have called for reconsideration of this rule. AARP, the American Hospital Association, the Small Business Administration, and dozens of other stakeholder groups have also written to CMS asking for a more full analysis of the proposal to ensure patient access to care is not compromised.
Supporters of home healthcare understand that proposed cuts of this magnitude will threaten patient access to skilled home healthcare services. As one of the Medicare program’s most disadvantaged patient populations — many of whom live in underserved and rural communities — home health beneficiaries are uniquely vulnerable to patient access challenges as well as chronic disease and medical conditions that can benefit immensely from the delivery of home health.