Bipartisan Senators Attend March on Washington Breakfast
March 25, 2015 05:18 PM
Four long-standing champions for home care and hospice—U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Pat Roberts (R-KS)—attended a Senate Breakfast yesterday, as part of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) 2015 March on Washington Conference. The senators told personal stories and reiterated their commitment to community- and home-based care. They also provided fact-based arguments in opposition to unnecessary regulations that limit access to care and proposals to cut home health care and hospice. Providers from across the country participating in the conference met with their members of Congress to advocate for home care and hospice yesterday and today.
Julie Shackley, President/CEO of Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice in Lewiston, ME, introduced Sen. Collins at the breakfast. Shackley said Mainers “could not be more proud” to have such a strong champion for home care and hospice.
“This is my 17th year!” said Sen. Collins, referring to her 17th year joining NAHC for the breakfast. “And it is indeed because the issues affecting home care and hospice care have always been at the top of my agenda, and they always will be.”
Sen. Collins said her commitment to home care and hospice is due to the fact that she understands how important it is to prepare for the “tidal wave” of retiring baby boomers, who will be retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day for the next 20 years. To prepare, she said, we need to shift to community- and home-based care by undoing burdensome and unnecessary regulations that limit access to home health care services.
“As the chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, I’m all too aware of the challenges facing our nation’s health care system which are driven by demographics,” Sen. Collins said. “Our systems clearly need to adapt and change if they are to be responsive to that tidal wave. One of the most important things we can do is to shift our orientation and our reimbursement system from institutional to community- and home-based care. Advances in technology and medical practice have made it possible for our older adults who previously would have been made to move to a hospital or a nursing home to stay in so many cases just where they want to be—in the privacy, security, and comfort of their own homes.”
Sen. Collins said she is “concerned that Medicare beneficiaries continue to face completely unnecessary barriers in accessing needed home health care services.” Part of the solution, she said, is to allow advanced practice nurses and physician assistants to sign and certify home health care plans. She has introduced the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act (S. 578) to accomplish that goal.
“If you think about it, it’s only logical,” Sen. Collins said. “These health care professionals are playing increasingly important roles in the delivery of health care services, particularly in rural and medically under-served areas of our country where physicians may be in short supply. Medicare already pays them to provide physician services that are within in their scope of practice. They can also certify that Medicare patients are eligible for skilled nursing services. So why in the world aren’t they allowed to order less costly home care services?”
Sens. Stabenow, Klobuchar, and Roberts, have cosponsored the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act and also explained the bill’s importance.
Laura Daniel, Director of VitalCare, Inc. in Cheboygan, MI, introduced Sen. Stabenow and said “she has championed home care and hospice issues in the U.S. Senate.”
In addition to cosponsoring the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, Sen. Stabenow said she is working to roll-back rebasing and fighting against further cuts to home care and hospice as a pay-for in the so-called “doc fix” legislation addressing the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), which the House plans to vote on tomorrow. Sen. Stabenow said she would also be fighting against budget proposals to cut Medicare and Medicaid.
“In my judgment home health should not be taking cuts to pay for the SGR,” Sen. Stabenow said.
Chris Taylor, Senior Sales Director of Cardiocom in Chanhassen, MN, introduced Sen. Klobuchar. Taylor said Sen. Klobuchar is a “home health and hospice hero.”
Sen. Klobuchar said she also opposes cuts to home health and hospice because she understands it’s more cost-effective. Sen. Klobuchar told the audience she understands the importance of their work because her family relied on home care when her daughter was sick after being born.
“I’ve always believed if you want to do something that’s cost effective for our country’s health care, how about home care, hospice care?” Sen. Klobuchar said. “We literally wouldn’t have survived without the home care people that came and helped us every single day. That’s why, for me, protecting your interests is so important in Congress.”
Introducing Sen. Roberts was Ed Schulte, PhD, Executive Director/President of Caregivers Home Health in Topeka, KS. Schulte said Roberts “has built a reputation as a leader in health care issues” and described his many efforts supporting home care and hospice.
Sen. Roberts, too, said he is committed to opposing payments cuts and undoing burdensome regulations limiting home care access. He said his commitment to home care began when he first personally participated in a home care visit in Kansas.
“That day really underscored my belief in the incredible value of the personal touch of the home care industry,” Sen. Roberts said. “I will continue, with your help, to be your watchdog and your champion with regards to CMS and other agencies, and stand up to the administrative payment cuts that they propose.”