NAHC President Calls on Congress to Improve Home Care for Seniors
Proposed Funding Cuts and Co-Pay Requirement Would Negatively Impact Health and Economic Well-Being of Millions of Seniors and Disabled American
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Barbara D. Woolley
WASHINGTON D.C. (March 15, 2011) Val J. Halamandaris, president of The National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), issued the following statement in response to todays release of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) report:
Seniors depend on home care, so lets improve home care for seniors. Unfortunately, if Congress were to adopt MedPACs recommendations for the home health benefit, the opposite would occur seniors and disabled Americans would suffer, and costs would rise for patients, families, and the Medicare program.
MedPAC recommends imposing a new beneficiary co-payment of $150 every 60 days of care and significantly cutting provider payment rates. As recent as 2003, and going back to 1972, Congress rejected a home care co-pay proposal, reaffirming its longstanding belief that co-pays discourage proper use of the valuable services in home health care. The rate cuts come on top of $39.7 billion in cuts passed by Congress last year.
“Today, millions of Americas seniors and disabled citizens depend on home care services to remain healthy, stable, and out of costly traditional settings. For decades, caring for the elderly, disabled and chronically ill at home has provided a dignified and high-efficient method of treatment. Home-based care is also clinically effective, utilizing advanced technologies and helping to cost-effectively manage chronic diseases that account for 75 percent of our nations health care spending.
We respectfully disagree with MedPAC and believe its recommendations could set back ongoing efforts to care for Americas most vulnerable citizens. Requiring seniors and disabled Americans to pay a fee to access home health care is nothing more than a ‘sick tax’ that falls heaviest upon the sickest, poorest, and most vulnerable members of society, impeding their ability to access home health services. Instead of out-of-pocket fees and short-term cuts, we should carefully consider ways to improve home care so that patients can continue to access the services they need in the most cost-effective setting available anywhere their home.
Past experience shows that if co-pays are instituted, the number of chronically ill and disabled persons who are forced to apply for help from state Medicaid programs will again increase dramatically, imposing an unnecessary burden on states. The impact of such cost-shifting will precipitate a national crisis as states struggle to carry the weight of caring for the 78 million members of the Baby Boom generation who will require personal care assistance or help with the management of multiple chronic diseases.
NAHC urges Congress and the administration to reject both the extended 2012 funding reduction and the requirement that seniors pay out of pocket. As a nation, it is incumbent upon public and private sector leaders to identify the most innovative and cost effective ways to care for and protect the rights of Americans by allowing them to receive the care they need in a cost-effective manner and in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. A strong home care system is essential to the health and economic well-being of millions of seniors and disabled Americans.
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is a nonprofit organization that represents the nations 33,000 home care and hospice organizations. NAHC also advocates for the more than two million nurses, therapists, aides and other caregivers employed by such organizations to provide in-home services each year to some 10 million Americans who are infirm, chronically ill, disabled and dying. Along with its advocacy, NAHC is committed to excellence in every respect and provides information to help its members maintain the highest quality of care. To learn more about NAHC, visit www.nahc.org and www.caring.org.