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Home Health Stakeholders Condemn Copays, Cuts In Obama's 2015 Budget

Published by Inside Health Policy
Michelle M. Stein
March 5, 2014

Home health stakeholders slammed President Barack Obama's fiscal 2015 budget Tuesday (March 4) for reviving home health copays, as well as proposing a cut that stakeholders say would be layered on top of unprecedented home health cuts from the Affordable Care Act.

Rather than home health copays or across-the-board cuts, the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare suggests in a statement that the administration adopt targeted program integrity reforms, value-based purchasing and post-acute care bundling. These reforms, unlike the ones in the president's budget, won't impact vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries or affect their access to care, the partnership says.

The president's budget includes a 1.1 percent cut for post-acute providers between fiscal 2015 and 2024, which the partnership and the National Association for Homecare and Hospice says will be layered on top of a 14 percent ACA cut going into effect.

NAHC says in a statement that "deficit reduction should not come in the form of a 'sick tax' on the nation's poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable individuals."

The proposals are essentially repeats from the fiscal 2014 budget, NAHC President Val Halamandaris says. "Congress refused to enact these suggestions last year, and we hope for the same response to this year's budget," Halamandaris adds.

The partnership notes that Congress repealed beneficiary cost sharing for home health patients in 1970s. The patients who access home health are poorer, sicker and more likely to be women and minorities, the partisanship adds, referencing a study from Avalere Health and Dobson|DaVanzo & Associates. The partnership says that forcing cuts or a copayment on this population could negatively affect access, and adds that many seniors in rural communities will seek care in higher-cost settings of care.

"We urge lawmakers to enact pro-patient reform solutions instead of imposing cuts and increasing costs that directly impact the Medicare program's most vulnerable patient population," Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare CEO Eric Berger says in a statement.

AARP and other senior advocates recently sent a letter to lawmakers urging them not to institute a home health copay to help pay for a replacement to the flawed Medicare physician pay formula. In response to the president's budget, ARP said that it's important to emphasize the need for health care cost containment, not cost shifting to beneficiaries. AARP did not specifically mention home health copays in its budget statement, though the group says it is still reviewing the details. -- Michelle M. Stein (mstein@iwpnews.com)

See the original article here.

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