Supercommittee’s Inability to Reach Agreement on Deficit Reduction Proposal Means No Home Health Co-pays
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Barbara D. Woolley
WASHINGTON D.C. (November 22, 2011) Val J. Halamandaris, president of The National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), issued the following statement concerning release of a statement yesterday by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (supercommittee) that it was unable to reach agreement on a deficit reduction proposal:
The inability of the supercommittee to reach agreement on a proposal to reduce the budget deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years means that the battle continues to protect home health care for the three and a half million Medicare beneficiaries who receive home health care annually. The sequester process that is triggered by the supercommittees result has some advantages for the home health community in that there are no automatic cuts to Medicaid or to Medicare benefits to beneficiaries. However, that process does provide for 2% provider payment cuts totaling $5.6 billion over the next ten years. This is a reduction in support for home health services. Still, it is certainly less than the $20 to $40 billion in beneficiary co-payments and provider payment cuts that were among the suggested proposals considered by the supercommittee.
The future of Medicare and Medicaid is likely to be decided by the choices made in the 2012 elections. The home health care community must continue to demonstrate that home care is both preferred by patients and much less costly than alternative care in hospitals and nursing homes. With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 each day, we must rely more on innovative and cost effective home care. Americans will be living longer, but many will be doing so with multiple chronic illnesses. Home care can and should be used to reduce the tremendous strain that will otherwise be placed on our health care system.
We also must continue to make the case that Medicare home health co-payments are not the answer to Medicares financial challenges. There is an illusion that co-pays would save money, however, Congress recognized that copays create unnecessary and counterproductive barriers to care just a few years after Medicare started and deleted the home health co-pay provision in 1972. The reinstitution of co-pays will also only serve to increase the use of costlier forms of care or impose a sick tax on our most vulnerable citizens as they try to stay in their own homes.
The home health care community also plays a vital part in job creation. One thing that most all agree on is that job growth is essential to the success of our national economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, four of the top ten most needed jobs over the next ten years are in home health care. As such, support for home care should be a national priority.
I believe that the members of the supercommittee tried very hard to come together on an agreement and that they should be commended for making such a strong effort. It may very well turn out that their efforts have laid the foundation for future success in deficit reduction. Therefore, each supercommittee member should be sincerely thanked for their service over the past several months.
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is a non-profit 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 to some 12 million Americans each year who are infirm, chronically ill, disabled and dying. Along with its advocacy, NAHC provides information to help its members provide the highest quality of care and is committed to excellence in every respect. To learn more about NAHC visit www.nahc.org.