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Editorial: Support Walden’s bill on home health care

Published by Bend Bulletin
July 23, 2014

As Americans grow older, financial pressure on the federal Medicare system also grows. The older we get, the more likely we are to be hospitalized, and recovery at home is less expensive than recovery in a hospital or other care facility.

That’s why the Obama Administration’s decision to cut payments to home health providers under the Affordable Care Act makes so little sense. It’s also why U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, has introduced legislation that would eliminate most of those cuts and shift the way payments to home health provider companies are made.

As things now stand, home health agencies can expect a 3.5 percent reduction in payments each year through 2017, a 14 percent reduction in all. Even the board that sets Medicare rates acknowledges the impact of those cuts — 40 percent of such agencies would be losing money by 2017, it says.

Here, the impact would be even worse. Some 70 percent of home care agencies would be losing money by 2017, Walden says, with the greatest impact felt in rural Oregon, where access to health care can be limited and poverty levels high.

Walden’s SAVE (Securing Access Via Excellence) Medicare Home Health Act takes a different approach.

It would allow the 2014 home health care cuts to remain in place, but in the following years, it directs the Department of Health and Human Services to create measures of hospital readmission rates, one of which would allow the department to identify potentially preventable readmissions. They’re the ones that can be avoided, often, by adequate and less expensive care in a patient’s home.

Once that is done, the bill would have HHS establish a “Value-Based Purchasing Program” that would reward home care providers for high-performing agencies, those whose readmission rates were lowest, and cut payments to agencies with exceptionally high hospital readmission rates.

It is a sensible way to save money as it improves care.

So far, no Democrats have cosponsored the SAVE Medicare measure. That’s unfortunate. A bill that rewards good service and punishes service that is sub-par is a logical way to solve a problem that could force Medicare to spend more than it now does.

See the original article here.

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