NAHC Opposes Proposed Home Health Copays and Inflation Update Cuts in President’s 2015 Budget
March 5, 2014 12:47 PM
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) strongly opposes the Obama Administration’s proposed home health copayments. NAHC maintains that deficit reduction should not come in the form of a “sick tax” on the nation’s poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable individuals.
“Essential home health services are at risk,” said NAHC President Val J. Halamandaris. “Previously enacted changes will cut Medicare spending on home health services by more than $100 billion over the next ten years — while less than $20 billion is spent each year. As a result of these cuts, Medicare will pay home health agencies less than their costs, meaning that 41 percent of all Medicare home health agencies will be under water in 2014, and 60 percent by 2017. Congress should therefore reject any additional cuts and any home health copay whether the reason is postponement or elimination of scheduled cuts in physician fees or deficit reduction.”
The President’s budget also includes a 1.1 percentage point reduction each year in the Market Basket Index (inflation) updates for post-acute providers including home health care from 2015 through 2024. The proposed updates would reduce reimbursements by a total of nearly $98 billion. If they take effect, these payment reductions would be in addition to the 2014 rebasing of home health and home health productivity adjustments that lower payment rates by over 14 percent starting in 2015.
“These proposals from the President are essentially repeats from last year’s budget,” Halamandaris pointed out. “Congress refused to enact these suggestions last year and we hope for the same response to this year’s budget. Medicare reforms should never be funded by making indiscriminate across-the-board cuts to home health care or by shifting costs to our most vulnerable citizens through copays.”
The cumulative effect of these billions in cuts has been to push thousand of providers to the point of bankruptcy — limiting patients’ access to home care and forcing them into costlier care options. Yet the need for home care will only increase as the 78 million baby boomers turn 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day for the next 19 years. Home care is the option that the vast majority of boomers will demand because it helps patients stay independent and keeps families together. Home care is also far more cost-effective for Medicare than institutional options — saving the program tens of billions of dollars every year.