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.