December 18, 2013

Home Health Leaders Commend Senator Debbie Stabenow for Protecting Home Health for America’s Seniors

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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 thanked Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for her commitment to protecting patient access to clinically advanced, cost-effective and patient preferred home healthcare services. On November 22, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued the Final Home Health Prospective Payment System (HHPPS) Rule that severely cuts funding for the Medicare home health benefit by 14 percent over the next four years beginning January 1, 2014. A cut of this magnitude will cause – according to the Medicare Agency – 40 percent of the nation’s home health providers to incur net losses by 2017, jeopardizing access to skilled home healthcare for 1.4 million seniors. Unless action is taken immediately, thousands of home health agencies nationwide will be forced to close their doors, not only turning away patients, but also creating massive job loss for thousands of nurses, aides and therapists. As evidenced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, home health is an engine for job growth, with thousands of new jobs added monthly. However, such widespread net losses will freeze a burgeoning job market. Senator Stabenow has been a leader in efforts to protect access to home health for the nation’s most vulnerable patient population. In September, she authored a letter to CMS that was co-signed by 50 of her Senate colleagues and stated, “We are concerned the draft rule, which proposes to cut Medicare home health funding by 14 percent over 4 years (3.5 percent reduction each year in 2014-2017), as a result of the rebasing of the 60-day episode payment rate, does not properly reflect Section 3131 of Pub. L. No. 111-148 [of the Affordable Care Act]. If finalized in its current form the HHPPS proposed rule would raise serious concern about access to care for vulnerable seniors, especially in rural and underserved areas.” Since that time, Senator Stabenow has taken steps to highlight the negative consequences of the deep home health cuts included in CMS’ Final HHPPS Rule, noting that the cuts are draconian and would drastically reduce the number of home health providers needed to care for all Medicare home health patients. “We thank Senator Stabenow for advocating to protect home health funding so seniors can continue to receive skilled healthcare in the comfort of their own homes,” stated Eric Berger, CEO of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare. “We look forward to working with Senator Stabenow and other Members of Congress in the months ahead to advance an amendment that would postpone the home health rebasing adjustment by one year to provide the appropriate time to properly evaluate the full impact of these cuts.” Estimates suggest the Medicare program enrolls approximately 10,000 new beneficiaries each day, which will result in greater demand for skilled home healthcare for more American seniors. Currently, 3.5 million seniors receive care through the Medicare home health benefit, which is widely recognized as clinically advanced, cost-effective and patient preferred.