July 10, 2013

National Poll: American Seniors Overwhelmingly Reject Medicare Cuts and Cost-Sharing in Favor of Medicare Program Integrity Reform

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Washington, DC — A new national poll of more than 1,100 American seniors who are registered voters – released today by the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare – finds that 93 percent of seniors surveyed think Congress should advance reforms to stop Medicare fraud over cuts to Medicare payments or increased fees on seniors’ Medicare services. The survey further indicates that seniors believe any new out-of-pocket cost requirements will be financially harmful to vulnerable beneficiaries.

Key findings of the poll include:
“¢ 93 percent of seniors surveyed think Congress should advance reforms to stop Medicare fraud instead of cutting Medicare funding or charging seniors higher costs.
“¢ 77 percent of seniors approve of Congress doing all it can to combat Medicare fraud as a means to reduce federal spending.
“¢ 74 percent disapprove of making seniors pay higher fees for the healthcare services as a means to cut Medicare spending.
“¢ 86 percent of seniors agree increased out-of-pocket Medicare costs will cause financial strain for low-income seniors.
“¢ 82 percent of seniors would be less likely to support a lawmaker who votes to increase the out-of-pocket costs paid by seniors.

“These results clearly demonstrate that older Americans and Medicare beneficiaries oppose policies that unfairly impact their healthcare services and impose increased costs on a population that is financially and physically vulnerable,” said Chairman Billy Tauzin, senior counsel to the Partnership. “Instead, senior voters strongly support Congress taking targeted action to improve Medicare program integrity.”

The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare – a coalition of home health providers dedicated to developing innovative reforms to improve the program integrity, quality, and efficiency of home healthcare for our nation’s seniors – strongly opposes further cuts to the Medicare home health benefit as well as the re-imposition of a cost-sharing requirement in the Medicare home health benefit. Congress repealed a Medicare home health copayment in 1972 because it led to patients being served in more expensive facility-based settings and was found to create “a financial burden to many elderly persons living on marginal incomes.”

The poll results underscore analyses by Avalere Health finding the burden of increased-out-of-pocket costs would put significant financial strain on the Medicare home health population, which is poorer, older and sicker than the Medicare beneficiary population as a whole. Another report by the bipartisan Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that a large portion of “˜economically vulnerable’ elderly Americans could be significantly impacted by entitlement changes such as cost-sharing.

In order to address the need for policy solutions that protect beneficiaries, home health leaders have developed program integrity reforms as a pro-patient alternative to cost-sharing or additional Medicare cuts. Entitled the “Skilled Home Health and Integrity Program Savings” (SHHIPS) proposal, the home health reforms are estimated to save billions in Medicare funds. SHHIPS offers reforms that combat waste, fraud and abuse. These reforms are based on outlier payment reform, which was successfully implemented in 2010 and is on track to achieve more than $11 billion in savings over a 10-year period.

“As lawmakers look for ways to reduce federal spending, we urge them to consider these results as well as other data which illustrates the vulnerable status of our nation’s Medicare home health beneficiaries,” added Eric Berger, CEO of the Partnership. “There is a better way to reduce Medicare spending than hitting the most vulnerable populations the hardest. This is why we are continuing to work with leaders in Congress to advance program integrity reforms that seniors overwhelmingly favor as a means for achieving Medicare savings.”

The poll, completed by Public Policy Polling, surveyed 1,108 registered voters aged 65 and older from June 28 to June 30 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent.