Former CBO Director Urges an End to Home Health Cuts Contained in the ACA
Says Medicare needs more, not less, coordination of care and home health care
December 8, 2014 01:31 PM
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) from 2003 - 2005, recently published an op/ed in The Hill newspaper calling for an end to the home health cuts that were enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In his article, Dr. Holtz-Eakin states that:
“For decades, skilled home health care has been a key part of the Medicare program because it enables seniors to receive high-quality, coordinated health care in the lowest cost setting available – their own home. Home health has made it possible for seniors to avoid lengthy and expensive hospital stays or institutional care. Just as important, home health is one of the few places where chronically ill seniors can receive coordinated care — and Medicare needs more, not less, care coordination.
Despite this, to pay for ObamaCare, the ACA cut Medicare funding for home health care by an unprecedented 14 percent over four years. This is a classic case of the appeal of a line item on a budget spreadsheet trumping good policy. The reality is that this cut is so deep that the administration itself admitted it will drive “approximately 40 percent” of all home health agencies into the red by 2017. Put another way, this ObamaCare cut will cause nearly half of all the home health providers in America to layoff caregivers, sell their agencies, or declare bankruptcy.
Left unaddressed, this will have a detrimental effect beyond seniors; it will also have a direct impact on taxpayers and the economy. By causing so many home health providers to close, the home health care cut will result in higher Medicare costs as many seniors are forced into more expensive institutional settings. The closures will also cause as many as 465,000 professional caregivers to lose their jobs…
But most important, the ObamaCare home health cut will have a direct impact on seniors and disabled Americans too. According to the federal government, the 3.5 million Americans who receive skilled home health care services are older, sicker and poorer than other Medicare beneficiaries. They are also more likely to be women, minorities and disabled. In short, they are the most vulnerable subpopulation in the Medicare program – and the law of the land makes them more vulnerable still.
This is particularly bad news for patients in rural areas who depend on access to skilled home health care. If these cuts proceed without relief, Avalere Health estimates that 1.3 million seniors could lose their access to care. That will produce a result that the Medicare home health benefit was designed to prevent: compel seniors to leave their communities and travel long distances to receive care in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutional settings.”
NAHC has long advocated Congress to protect access to home care and hospice services by not cutting the home health benefit or adding additional copayments.
To urge your lawmakers to preserve access to home health services by opposing additional home health cuts or copays, please click here