July 14, 2011

Congressman Jim McGovern Issues Letter to President Obama Thanking Him for Seeking Alternatives to Home Healthcare Copayment and

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative James McGovern (MA-03) issued a letter last week thanking President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for their efforts to ensure than any Medicare provisions included in the budget deal strengthen the program and protect beneficiaries, and expressing concern about proposed copayments for home healthcare services, which would seriously impact vulnerable seniors, and actually increase costs to Medicare.

Research has recently shown that copayments could increase Medicare spending for inpatient hospital and post-acute care (PAC) treatment by up to $16.7 billion over ten years. Furthermore, nearly four out of five non dual-eligible home health beneficiaries have no secondary Medigap coverage and, consequently, would be personally responsible for the full copayment. More than half of these beneficiaries have incomes below $21,780 per year and experience a 25 percent greater rate of poverty than the typical Medicare beneficiary. The proposed copayment — $300 per 60-day episode — would be roughly equivalent to a typical senior’s monthly groceries. A home health copayment could also drive up Medicaid costs by as much as $2.4 billion over ten years, as Medicaid would cover co-payments for a portion of dual eligible individuals.

“I am troubled that some are suggesting copayments or other fees on the backs of our seniors are necessary to make sure they have “˜skin in the game,'” McGovern wrote in the letter. “Seniors already have extraordinary skin in the game: they have paid taxes, built our nation, and defended its freedom. Taking or taxing their hard-earned benefits is the wrong thing to do to a generation that deserves so much better.”

According to a recent Greenberg/FabrizioWard poll, the American public opposes a home health copayment. In the poll, 73 percent of voters expressed opposition and opposition was especially strong among elderly voters — 81 percent of seniors polled opposed a copayment. Additionally, 30 organizations representing seniors — including AARP, Easter Seals, and the National Association for Home Care & Hospice — issued a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to reject copayments and other measures that would place a disproportionate burden on the patients who can least afford it.

In his letter, Rep. McGovern cited the work of the home healthcare community to achieve savings, while protecting beneficiaries. “”¦ we need to find a better to way to help preserve and strengthen the Medicare program and, like all sectors of Medicare, the home healthcare community has an important role to play. This community has proposed a thoughtful reform plan that will strengthen program integrity and achieve substantial savings without burdening beneficiaries,” he wrote.

The home health community is advocating a savings plan that will reduce Medicare costs through program integrity improvements rather than increased fees on seniors who require home healthcare services.