Nation’s Home Health Organizations Host News Conference on Rebasing
August 30, 2013 01:46 PM
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), Visiting Nurses Association of America (VNAA) and the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare (PQHH) held a joint news conference recently where leaders of the three organizations – representing all aspects of the home healthcare community – demonstrated their unified opposition to CMS’ proposed rebasing rules that would dramatically cut funding to home healthcare under Medicare and significantly limit access to such services to beneficiaries.
The news conference was organized by NAHC and included participants from the other two organizations including NAHC President Val J. Halamandaris of NAHC, Chairman Billy Tauzin and Eric Berger of PQHH and Tracey Moorhead of VNAA – all of whom expresses their organization’s staunch opposition to the proposed rebasing rules.
Among the media outlets that participated were: Inside Health Policy; Kaiser Health News; Reuters; BNA; Home Health Care News; SeniorCare News ; Detroit Regional News Hub; Infinite Communication.
The call started with introductory remarks by Bill Tauzin, who stated that the home care community’s “collective concern is that any further cuts to Medicare home health will endanger seniors’ and disabled individuals’ access to the clinically-advanced and cost-effective, home-based care that is medically necessary for homebound patients… Cuts to the popular home health benefit pose serious risk to one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations, and therefore must be prevented.”
After giving an overview of the topics that were going to be discussed during the call, Mr. Tauzin then introduced NAHC’s president, Val J. Halamandaris, stating that, “Val has been leading the home health sector for more than 30 years and can offer a unique perspective into the unprecedented level of cuts we face today.”
Mr. Halamandaris focused his comments on the value, history and purpose of the home health benefit, stating that:
“Nearly 3.5 million seniors and disabled individuals depend on the Medicare home health benefit for skilled nursing care, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and occupational therapy services…
Skilled healthcare services that were once only available to Medicare patients in a facility-based setting can now be safely and efficiently delivered in a patient’s home – at a lower cost to the Medicare program than other care settings…
A recent analysis of Medicare claims data strongly suggests that the clinically appropriate use of skilled home healthcare by America’s seniors can lead to significant savings to the Medicare program by reducing hospital admissions, improving chronic disease management and strengthening care coordination…
During my 30 years at NAHC, I have rarely seen a time when our sector was subject to such dramatic funding cuts...
In recent years, it seems that we are targeted time and again when Congress looks to trim the Medicare program. Just since 2009, Medicare home health payments have been cut by an astonishing $72.5 billion. The prospect of another $22 billion in cuts is honestly mind-boggling…
The proposition of even more cuts to Medicare payments for cost-effective and patient preferred home care is especially troubling considering the value of home health and the increased patient need on the horizon…
Home healthcare providers must be poised to meet the growing demand that will result from the dramatic flood of Medicare patients entering the Medicare program…
Estimates suggest that approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 and become Medicare eligible each day in America…
This is no way to run a business, but more importantly, this is no way to take care of our nation’s most frail and vulnerable patients. It’s just not right.
Mr. Halamandaris concluded his comments before introducing Tracey Moorhead of the Visiting Nurse’s Association of America by stating plainly that, “if home health agencies are forced to close – especially in rural areas – homebound patients may be forced to leave their home and seek care in a more expensive nursing home or hospital.”
At issue is the issue of rebasing home health payments under Medicare. In CMS’ proposed HHPPS rule - issued June 27 - CMS proposes to further reduce Medicare home health funding by instituting a rebasing rate set at the maximum level permitted by law – 3.5 percent annually from 2014 to 2017 – totaling a 14 percent cut over the next four years. Analysis of the proposed rule reveals that a 14 percent reduction in home health reimbursement would result in a cut of $22 billion over 10 years.
When the proposed cuts under CMS’ rebasing proposal are coupled with the $72.5 billion in Medicare home health funding that has been cut since 2009 due to a series of legislative and regulatory changes, the nation’s home health sector is facing a total cut of nearly $100 billion.
If finalized and implemented as proposed, the cuts to home healthcare providers through rebasing is projected to impose net operating losses on 47 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia by 2017 - rendering many home health agencies inoperable. Nationally, the Medicare home health margin will drop to -9.77 percent.
In her comments, VNAA’s president and CEO Tracy Moorland stated that:
“The proposed rebasing policy only further reduces the sufficient payments needed to ensure that vulnerable patient populations retain access to quality home health services…
Likewise, underserved areas are also at high risk when Medicare payments are cut. Vulnerable populations – especially those who are dually eligible under Medicare and Medicaid and those living in geographical areas that are underserved – have limited access to home health and more cuts only further threaten patient access in these communities…
Any changes to the home health benefit must take into account these factors or risk putting these vulnerable patient populations at an even greater disadvantage for accessing the home healthcare they desperately need.”
Before introducing Eric Berger from PQHH, Ms. Moorland concluded that Medicare cuts, “directly threaten the ability of…smaller agencies to stay open, retain staff and provide adequate pay to their home health professionals. The reality is that many small and independent home health agencies will have to make the difficult decision to shut their doors if these deep cuts take effect.”
Mr. Berger of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare reiterated that:
“The new analysis shows that the rebasing cut would translate to another $22 billion in cuts over a decade. If coupled with previous cuts – a total of $72.5 billion made since 2009 – home health would experience an unprecedented cut of $94.5 billion from 2011-2020. These proposed cuts are unsustainable and completely undermine the ability of our sector to provide quality healthcare services to the nation’s most vulnerable patient populations.”
In wrapping up his remarks, Mr. Berger spoke for the whole home care community by stating:
“Our organizations have come together around this issue to ensure that both the Administration and Congress fully understand the enormity of this situation and what these cuts would mean to their constituents and the future of our home health sector. The sustainability of home health delivery in America is dependent on protecting our community from this 14 percent cut and the consequences it bears.”
NAHC members are encouraged to contact their lawmakers and urge them to preserve access to home health care by opposing such rate cuts.
To read the full press release that accompanied the news conference, please click here.
To view a video on rebasing by NAHC President Val J. Halamandaris, please click here.
To read the previous NAHC Report articles on rebasing, please click here.