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Letter: Medicare home health care is a necessity

Published by The State Journal-Register
Sheila Guither, RN, MSN, CWOCN
May 16, 2016

On behalf of Medicare beneficiaries who depend on home health care, I would like to thank Senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk for speaking out against a Medicare demonstration that would require prior authorization of clinically advanced, patient preferred home health services.

Medicare home health is physician-prescribed care that patients cannot go without. For Medicare's oldest, sickest and most vulnerable beneficiaries, at-home services are critical to keeping seniors in the home and out of the hospital.

If subject to prior authorization, Illinois' Medicare beneficiaries will face dangerous delays in care while they wait for a government official to approve the care their physician deemed medically necessary. Further, many patients are prescribed home health when discharged from the hospital the time when patients are arguably weakest putting them at serious risk for adverse health events such as a fall, medication errors and infection. Prior authorization will undoubtedly drive some patients back into the hospital when they should be recovering safely at home with the help of their home health clinicians.

Prior authorization also poses additional administrative burdens on physicians and home health agencies who already are required to complete extensive documentation on patient eligibility for Medicare home health services.

Across Illinois, nearly 200,000 Medicare beneficiaries depend upon skilled home health. I commend Senators Durbin and Kirk for voicing concerns against prior authorization. Medicare's vulnerable seniors need policies that protect timely access to the safe, cost effective home health.

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