September 18, 2013

Home Health Leaders Commend Long Term Care Commission for Recommending Expanded Access to Home Healthcare Services

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Washington, DC – The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare – a coalition of home health providers dedicated to improving the program integrity, quality, and efficiency of home healthcare for our nation’s seniors – today commended the Long Term Care Commission (the Commission) for recommending that barriers limiting patient access to Medicare home health services be addressed.

“We applaud the Commission for recommending pro-patient solutions that will expand access to clinically-advanced and cost-effective home healthcare. By calling for Medicare’s homebound requirement to be revised, the Commission has identified a reform that would enable more seniors to receive high-quality treatment in the most cost-effective setting available – their home,” said Eric Berger, CEO of the Partnership.

In its report to Congress, released today, the Commission recommends that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revise the current requirement that Medicare beneficiaries be “homebound” in order to be eligible for Medicare home health services. Under current Medicare policy, beneficiaries cannot receive home health services unless leaving their home requires a considerable and taxing effort, such as needing crutches, a walker, wheelchair, or help from another person.

In order to expand beneficiaries’ access to healthcare services delivered in their home, the Commission recommends, “CMS revise the homebound requirement to ensure it does not create inappropriate barriers to care and to assess the cost implications of doing so.”

Medicare home health is defined as medical care provided in a patient’s home and can include skilled nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Today, approximately 3.5 million American seniors rely on the Medicare home health benefit for care. According to AARP, 9 out of every 10 seniors would prefer to age at home rather than a nursing home or other care facility.

The Partnership also expressed its gratitude to the Commission for soliciting input from a broad spectrum of policy experts and stakeholders. Mr. Berger was among those who provided testimony to the Commission, appearing before it on August 20, 2013.