Letter: Reject cuts to home care

Going home from the hospital is a great feeling, but it can be very stressful. New medications, limited mobility, wound care or other treatments are all in the hands of family, unless there is skilled home health care. Family members, aging Boomers, and U.S. economic recovery have one important thing in common: skilled home health improves their outlook.

Skilled home health care’s clinically advanced and cost-effective services at home, preferred by patients, keeps over 3.5 million baby boomers out of costly institutional settings, and helps to prevent tens of thousands of rehospitalizations each year. Home care simultaneously drives job creation, as 10,000 Boomers become Medicare-eligible daily.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the majority of all new health care jobs created in May 2013 were in home care. New home care jobs allowed overall positive health care job growth while hospitals and facility settings experienced job loss. If no new home care jobs had been created, around 2,000 overall health care positions would have been lost nationwide.

Home care employs nearly 22,000 professionals in Louisiana. That number escalates rapidly as we age. Clinicians now provide skilled nursing care, chronic disease management and many complex therapies in the safety of the patient’s home, at a much lower cost to Medicare than hospitals and other care settings.

Home health care is critical to seniors and communities. But a Washington, D.C., proposal could bring home care’s progress to a screeching halt. A Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) draft regulation threatens to cut home health Medicare funding by 14 percent over four years. CMS intends to rebase, reduce home health payments without properly analyzing the impact the cuts would have on patients.

Medicare has cut home care patient services by over $72.5 billion since 2009. Louisiana’s home care patients’s Medicare services will experience $11.4 billion in cuts over ten years. Analyses predict Medicare home care cuts will result in net provider losses in 47 of 50 states by 2017. If implemented, six of ten Louisiana home care providers would have a Medicare margin at or below zero percent.

Changes to Medicare reimbursement will negatively impact home health patients, will harm small businesses, and devastate job growth. Without home health those needing chronic care could find themselves in poorer health and at risk for costly hospitalizations.

For the sake of home health patients across the nation, CMS must reconsider the regulation that could potentially devastate services to home health patients, most notably the 94 percent of states that will have negative margins with Medicare payment cuts.

At a time when we are making such marked progress on dual fronts — jobs and health care — let’s not take a step backward. Family caregivers need the help. Let’s ask congressional leaders to take a stand against home care cuts.

Warren Hebert

CEO, HomeCare Association of Louisiana

Lafayette