Medicare reforms needed to protect rural access to home health for vulnerable seniors
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Grange expressed support today for the Securing Access Via Excellence (SAVE) Medicare Home Health Act introduced last week by Congressmen Greg Walden (R-OR) and Tom Price (R-GA) to restore funding for skilled home health services that are vital to American seniors, particularly those living in rural parts of the country.
The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act halts the 3.5 percent annual across-the-board payment cut inflicted on the Medicare home health benefit on January 1 beginning in 2015 and replaces it with reforms that include measures to keep patients in their homes. The legislation establishes a program to reduce hospital readmissions and strengthen care quality, which will achieve the same Medicare savings as the arbitrary “rebasing” cut, while also safeguarding patients and their healthcare providers.
“We thank Congressmen Greg Walden and Tom Price for taking an important legislative step to protect access to a vital Medicare service that so many seniors and disabled people in our country rely on for healthcare,” National Grange President Ed Luttrell said Tuesday. “We are especially aware of the unique needs of America’s rural communities and are encouraged by reforms like the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act that ensure healthcare is available to every person who needs it, no matter where they reside.”
Unless corrected, the funding cuts to home healthcare put seniors, caregivers and their families at serious risk for losing access to care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that because of this cut, “approximately 40 percent” of home health agencies will be operating at a net loss by 2017, risking the care of 1.3 million seniors and nearly 500,000 healthcare workers.
Analyses by Avalere health demonstrate that Medicare beneficiaries are older, poorer, sicker and more likely to be from an ethnic or racial minority than the Medicare population as a whole. Additionally, many of these home health beneficiaries reside in rural communities, where the nearest medical facility is miles or hours away from their home.
For many of these seniors with chronic and acute conditions, travelling long distances for care is impractical. If they lose access to skilled home healthcare due to arbitrary funding cuts, many will be forced into costly intuitional care or worse, forego needed medical care altogether.
Established in 1867, The National Grange, a nonpartisan, nonprofit fraternal organization, is the oldest agricultural and rural community service organization. With more than 2,100 local chapters, the Grange has evolved into the nation’s leading rural advocacy organization and a major benefactor to local communities. There are more than 160,000 members across the United States.