House Members Speak at March on Washington Breakfast
March 27, 2015 03:22 PM
Five U.S. Representatives—Lois Capps (D-CA-24), Jim McGovern (D-MA-02), Diane Black (R-TN-06), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07), and Jim Langevin (D-RI-02)—spoke about their commitment to community- and home-based care on Wednesday, March 25, during a House Breakfast with home care and hospice providers. The House Breakfast was part of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) 2015 March on Washington Conference. On Tuesday and Wednesday, home care and hospice providers from across the country participating in the conference met with their members of Congress to advocate for policy priorities.
Like the Senators at the Senate Breakfast the day before, the Representatives told personal stories that illustrated the importance of home care and hospice. They argued against unnecessary regulations that limit access to care and against proposals to cut payments to home care and hospice providers.
The Representatives also spoke about the importance of passing Medicare legislation to permanently replace the flawed physician payment formula known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). Subsequently, as NAHC reported yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the SGR bill. The Senate plans to consider the legislation after returning from a two-week Congressional recess on April 13. While the current payment patch expires at the end of March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said there is a delay of about 14 days before claims are paid, providing some additional time for the Senate to act before physicians experience the cut.
Congresswoman Lois Capps, who was a visiting nurse for many years, said home-based care is the way of the future, so Congress should put more resources into it and remove barriers limiting access to care. Part of the solution, she said, is for Congress to pass the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act (HR 1342), which would allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to certify home health plans of care. NAHC reported on the importance of this bill here.
“We need to really look at where we focus our resources as a nation and understand the burdens that you relive from family members,” said Congresswoman Capps. “Patients shouldn’t be seeing delays in their access to care. This is unconscionable, really. The bureaucracy is too thick, too deep. We need to streamline it to get to the important issues.”
Congressman Jim McGovern announced he and Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC-03) would be re-establishing the Home Health Caucus, which they chaired last Congress as well. Congressman McGovern also announced that he had signed on as co-sponsor to the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act.
“I appreciate all the care you give to my constituents and people all over this country,” Congressman McGovern said. “It helps that you believe in what you’re doing. I think it’s important for you to be here [in Washington, D.C.]. It makes a difference.”
Congressman Diane Black, who has been a nurse for over 40 years, said she understands home health has a role in ensuring health dollars are spent wisely. She also addressed the House-passed legislation to permanently replace the Sustainable Growth Rate, which contains pay-fors impacting home care and hospice. She said the SGR bill benefits the health care system as a whole, and that the House Ways and Means Committee is committed to working with NAHC to find a solution moving forward that ensures there is no negative impact to quality of care for patients.
“With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, we need to be cognizant that those dollars will run out and spend them as wisely as we can,” Congressman Black said. “Valuing services and paying for quality is very important.”
Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn said her family relied on home care both when her father and mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s. Her personal experience showed her the importance of removing bureaucratic barriers to care in the system. She said she has cosponsored legislation, the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act (HR 1190), which would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). She is very focused on “getting IPAB out of the way.”
“The more innovation there is, with technology and pharmaceuticals and therapies, the more personalized medicine becomes,” Congresswoman Blackburn said. “And to try the one-size-fits-all with somebody here in DC saying, ‘A is allowed, but B is not, and C – we’re going to say maybe, and D – we’re gonna make you come back and ask a second time in a different way.’ That just no longer works.”
Congressman Jim Langevin told that audience how personally important home health care has been for his family. He said that home-based care is the “care of the future” but that Congress needs to remove barriers in the regulatory system. One important example is passing the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, he said.
“I know from a very personal perspective the value of home health care—I live it every day,” Congressman Langevin said. “Home health care is obviously a safe, cost-effective alternative as you know to more expensive settings like hospitals and nursing homes and really does allow people to live independently, again, in their own homes with family and loved ones. It’s a much better outcome both for the patient and the family and the taxpayers all the way around. But it’s not gonna flourish if we continue to stand in the way of progress.”
Congressman Langevin also thanked NAHC’s President, Val J. Halamandaris, saying the two have “developed a friendship that in many ways transcends politics” and calling Halamandaris “a compassionate leader and a very dedicated advocate for seniors, for people with disabilities.”