February 24, 2022

Strengthening the Foundation for Home Health Care

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Kaiser Health News

No patient in need should be left without care — period. Home health agencies must have the resources they need to meet the demands of today’s health care workforce. As demand for home health care continues to grow, Medicare must address the way it reimburses agencies for care in order to help us meet patients’ current and future needs through the recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce (“Pandemic-Fueled Shortages of Home Health Workers Strand Patients Without Necessary Care,” Feb. 3).

Home health care, which has always been a popular option for seniors and families, has shown its value during the pandemic. That’s because it has helped many seniors recover from serious illness and injury without needing to be admitted to skilled nursing facilities, which have been challenged with covid-19 outbreaks. According to analyses, the demand for home health will increase rapidly in the years ahead as America’s Medicare-aged population continues to surge.

Unfortunately, Medicare policy contributes to serious labor shortages because Medicare’s payment adjustments have not been reflective of labor and administrative price trends in the home health sector. Though the pandemic and creeping inflation have both caused labor costs (including wages, benefits, hiring, and retention) to jump sharply, annual home health payment updates declined from CY 2019 to CY 2022. This trend is simply unsustainable: If the annual payment rate update continues to fall below rising workforce, labor, and care delivery costs, Medicare risks undermining the sustainability of America’s home health system.

By keeping pace with rising labor costs, Medicare and other payors can ensure home health agencies are better prepared to meet the demands of more American seniors who want to be cared for at home.

— Joanne E. Cunningham, executive director of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, Washington, D.C.

Click here to see the full article on the Kaiser Health News website.