For years, professionals in the home care and palliative care industry have worked tirelessly on behalf of pediatric patients, geriatric patients, disabled veterans, and anyone in need of home care, regardless of their age or disability. Much of this work and the challenges our patients face are invisible to most, unless you are one of those families who desperately depends on home care services. Our industry is proud to serve this incredibly diverse patient population and our workforce doesn’t show up for the awards every day – we show up for the disabled child, the elderly patient and the relieved caregivers who rely on us. to keep their loved one home and make life a little easier.
Although we are in the background of the healthcare landscape, our industry can no longer afford to remain silent. Home care and palliative care providers face rising inflation, shortages of healthcare workers and rising fuel costs to travel from home to home, impacting impact on patient care and access to essential home care services. These issues are further compounded by the current COVID-19 public health emergency and recent devastating proposals to cut federal Medicare home health benefits.
Medicare cuts could send more seniors to nursing homes
Without action from our lawmakers, Medicare is poised to cut home care services by $1.33 billion in 2023 alone. Additional cuts of more than $2 billion in 2024 and beyond, reaching up to $18 billion over the next decade, will make it impossible to access home care for many homebound patients in need. Without this funding, many vulnerable seniors who receive care through home care or palliative care providers will be forced to receive their long-term care in nursing homes, taking away the familiarity and the comfort of being at home with a consistent provider and will cost significantly more than home care options.
In addition to these proposed cuts, in Texas the state legislature and the Health and Human Services Commission dictate rates for home care providers, which are already significantly behind inflation costs. and market competitive compensation to attract and retain staff. Combined with this current state funding environment, the Medicare cuts would leave more than 500,000 Texas families who rely on vital home health care services without a comfortable continuing care option and cost billions more.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, keeping patients out of hospitals for preventable and manageable medical needs saves taxpayers $33.7 billion every year, further underscoring the need for additional care options. Cutting Medicare home care services for our rapidly growing elderly population makes no sense, financial or otherwise, regardless of your political leanings.
Recently, Senator Stabenow, Senator Collins, Congresswoman Sewell and Congresswoman Buchanan presented the Preserving Access to Home Health Care Act 2022, which would ensure consistent payments to home health agencies under Medicare funding and ensure that our at-risk patients and their families can rely on their continued care. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would play a vital role in maintaining home care for homebound patients and ensure industry can continue to provide these vital services.
Congressional action now would save taxpayers money in the long run
The Preserving Access to Home Health Care Act is an affordable, immediate, short-term solution to maintaining this crucial standard of care and continuing to serve patients across the country without elective hospital intervention. While more federal attention and development of home care reimbursement is still needed, this legislation is an excellent first step in protecting this vital care option for our most vulnerable Americans.
Living with a disability and wanting the best possible care for loved ones is not a political issue, and for those who desperately need constant access to home care, this legislation is a band-aid in an increasingly difficult, while saving billions of dollars in unnecessary and prolonged hospital stays. To continue to ensure that every American gets the care and support they need, the home care and hospice industry urges our Texas leaders in Washington to pass the bipartisan Safeguarding Access to Health Act. at home and to focus on innovative healthcare solutions on behalf of our patients who are unable to advocate for themselves.
Rachel Hammon is a registered nurse and executive director of the Texas Association of Home Care & Hospice in Austin.