New Poll Shows Overwhelming, Bipartisan Opposition to Home Health Care Budget Cuts
By Wide Margin, Public Tells Debt Ceiling Negotiators to Reject Medicare Cuts, Instead Focus on Program Integrity Reform
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Barbara D. Woolley
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 1, 2011) As policymakers negotiate a debt ceiling agreement that could include up to $50 billion in home health funding cuts, [i] including changes that will increase out-of-pocket costs for some of America’s lowest-income seniors, a new poll out today shows that nearly three of every four Americans oppose such measures and favor alternative proposals centered around better care coordination and strong efforts to eliminate fraud and abuse.
The survey, conducted jointly by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Fabrizio-Ward, and released today by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), found that overwhelming opposition to proposed home health care budget cuts and new beneficiary cost-sharing extends throughout the electorate — regardless of age, gender, geographic region, ethnicity or political affiliation.
There is a definitive and bipartisan passion on this issue. Even though were more than a year away from the 2012 election, likely voters are willing to make this a criterion for how they cast their vote. The results spell political trouble for anyone who tries to reduce spending through benefit cuts instead of program improvements, said Anna Greenberg, senior vice president at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.
A recent Avalere Health study found that more than half of all Medicare home health beneficiaries do not have coverage to help them afford new cost-sharing requirements, and more than half of those have annual incomes below $22,000. As a result, the proposed cuts and cost-sharing would directly impact some of the lowest-income seniors in the Medicare program.
Placing a burden on seniors, persons with disabilities and the chronically ill will force many Medicare patients into costly hospitals and nursing homes, said Val Halamandaris, president of NAHC. Every piece of research weve seen shows that seniors wish to remain in their own homes, live independently and have their health protected. Policymakers should respect their wishes and, in so doing, take the fiscally responsible route by preserving accessible home health care and pursuing options such as a targeted approach to fraud and abuse that will achieve greater savings for Medicare.
Even when presented with balanced arguments both for and against funding cuts and co-pays, voters did not weaken their opposition to these proposals, said Bob Ward, partner at Fabrizio-Ward. The message this sends is clear. Americans understand the direct ramifications these proposals will have on Medicare patients health and well-being and expect alternative strategies for cutting costs while preserving quality health care.
Key findings of the Greenberg/Fabrizio poll include:
|||Opposition to funding cuts and co-pays is not only broad, but also intense. Of the 73 percent of voters who oppose home health budget cuts, more than two of every three expressed strong opposition. On the issue of imposing out-of-pocket costs for in-home health care, 81 percent of seniors oppose the new fees with 58 percent strongly opposing.|
|||Arguments in favor of the home health cuts do not weaken opposition. When presented with balanced arguments for and against the proposed budget cuts, 67 percent of voters remain opposed with most feeling strongly against the reductions. Voter opposition on the co-pay proposal actually increased after hearing arguments on both sides, with strong opposition jumping from 55 to 59 percent.|
|||Party affiliation is not a factor in support of home health care. Eighty six percent of Democrats oppose the cuts, along with 70 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of independent voters.|
|||This issue has significant political ramifications for officeholders. Majorities of voters said they would be less likely to vote for their member of Congress if he or she supports the proposed funding cuts or the proposed co-pays for home health care. Sixty-four percent of seniors said they would be less likely to vote for their incumbent lawmaker if he or she supports the two proposals.|
|||There is strong public support for alternatives to contain Medicare costs. More than 80 percent of voters support a number of alternative proposals to cut costs by eliminating fraud and abuse within the health care system and by increasing efficiencies in the delivery of care.|
These findings are based on a national telephone survey of 750 likely November 2012 voters, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Fabrizio-Ward from June 21 to June 26, 2011. The sample was supplemented with an oversampling of 100 seniors and has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
About the National Association for Home Care & Hospice
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is a nonprofit organization that represents the nations 33,000 home care and hospice organizations. NAHC also advocates for the more than two million nurses, therapists, aides and other caregivers employed by such organizations to provide in-home services each year to some 10 million Americans who are infirm, chronically ill, disabled and dying. Along with its advocacy, NAHC is committed to excellence in every respect and provides information to help its members maintain the highest quality of care. To learn more about NAHC, visit www.nahc.org and www.caring.org
[i] Estimate based on CBO and National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recommendations: www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/120xx/doc12085/03-10-ReducingTheDeficit.pdf
and www.fiscalcommission.gov/sites/fiscalcommission.gov/files/documents/ TheMomentofTruth12_1_2010.pdf