July 16, 2019
Opinion: Texas lawmakers should protect home health for older Americans
Austin American Statesman
With recent debate surrounding Medicare For All and other big-ticket healthcare proposals, changes to the current Medicare system that affect millions of Americans are going unnoticed. Including one that stands to affect Texas seniors who rely on life-saving home health services.
Home health care is an essential element to our state’s senior care infrastructure, providing necessary care to those who are not able to leave their homes. However, recent changes to Medicare’s payment system will have a decidedly negative impact on Texas seniors who want to receive skilled care services in the comfort of their own homes.
Under a new payment model, scheduled to be implemented by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in 2020, timely and consistent access to home health services for these vulnerable individuals could be considerably threatened. Under the new structure called the Patient-Driven Groups Modeling, Medicare plans to cut $1 billion from the home health program next year by basing its provider payments on “assumed behaviors,” which translates into assumptions made about the types of service being administered to patients rather than actual services that are carried out.
This unnecessary and draconian cut to Medicare for seniors could result in home health agency closures and force seniors into inpatient settings like nursing homes to receive the medical care they need for a higher price to patients and taxpayers.
As the executive director of the Texas Association for Home Care & Hospice, I know the effects this policy will have for our state’s elderly and underserved, and our healthcare workforce as well. Across the Lone Star state, the home health industry employs over 263,608 people and has spurred the creation of over 406,299 jobs. Together these home health workers and other professionals ensure care to more than 300,000 Texans annually. Cutting funding for Medicare home health puts these professionals and the patients they care for at risk.