September 27, 2013

Home health companies say they’ll lose money under Medicare cuts

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Albuquerque Business First

More than three quarters of New Mexico’s home health care agencies would lose money by caring for Medicare patients under proposed Medicare cuts, according to a national home health care advocacy group.

The proposed cuts of $22 billion over the next 10 years for the national Medicare program would cost New Mexico companies $37.4 million over the next decade, according to figures from the Washington, D.C.-based Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare.

To avoid losing money by caring for Medicare patients, the home health care agencies would most likely have to cut staff in order to deal with the cuts, said Joie Glenn, executive director of the New Mexico Association for Home and Hospice Care.

“The bottom line is that agencies in New Mexico are going to be hit hard; they have already suffered cuts prior to” the latest budget-cutting proposal, Glenn said. “We are still having to spend resources to comply with regulations and you can’t cut back on that. The only place you can cut is personnel.”

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has proposed cutting Medicare home health funding by 3.5 percent a year from 2014 to 2017. That would be on top of $72.5 billion in cuts the home health care community has had to deal with since 2009, the partnership said. If the proposed cuts become final, 78 percent of New Mexico’s home health care agencies would be losing money on Medicare patients by 2017, if they didn’t do anything to reduce costs, Glenn said.

The problem home heath care agencies currently face is that Medicare doesn’t pay for much of the infrastructure, such as telemedicine services, needed to treat Medicare patients in their homes, Glenn added.

Those services and infrastructure “are important costs of doing business and Medicare doesn’t allow that in their cost accounting,” Glenn said. “Agencies are investing in telemedicine and other things for better outcomes and for better patient care, and they will not be able to sustain these kinds of cuts.”

New Mexico has 73 certified home health care agencies which employ between 10,000 and 15,000 people, Glenn said. About 2,500 of those employees care for Medicare patients.

See the original article here.