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.