Home Care and Hospice Stakeholders Call for Adequate Federal Funding as Fiscal Cliff Pressures Rise

Services Meet Increasing Demand for Care, Save Billions for Taxpayers

Dec 06, 2012, 14:27 ET from Texas Association for Home Care & Hospice Inc.

AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Home care and hospice stakeholders from across the state are actively making their case to protect access to cost-effective home care and hospice services as federal lawmakers tackle a host of fiscal issues in the effort to address the impending fiscal cliff.

Members of the Texas Association for Home Care & Hospice (TAHC&H) are contacting their members of Congress today to educate them on potentially devastating consequences to home care and hospice patients and Texas taxpayers of certain deficit-reduction proposals. The advocacy effort comes on the heels of a recent trip to Washington D.C. to meet with members following the November election.

Their message is clear: Spending on cost-effective home care and hospice services saves taxpayers money and avoids more costly institutional care in the long run.

"Home care and hospice services are the most cost-effective methods of care for Medicare and Medicaid and are the first choice in health care among elderly, disabled and medically frail Texans," said Rachel Hammon, executive director of TAHC&H. "The use of these services contributes to billions of dollars in taxpayer savings by preventing or reducing the use of more expensive emergency room, hospital and nursing home services."

Specific items communicated to lawmakers include opposing Medicare home health copayments, additional cuts in home health and hospice reimbursements and changes to home care and hospice benefits that threaten access to patient care and increase costs for taxpayers.

Stakeholders are reminding lawmakers that the home care industry has already seen its share of cuts with recent legislative and regulatory reductions totaling $77 billion since 2009 for a benefit that in 2010 was less than $20 billion. With the combination of these cuts, almost 60 percent of all home health agencies in Texas are projected to be paid less than the cost of care for Medicare patients in 2012. This does not include further reductions under the Affordable Care Act and sequestration set to take place in 2013 and 2014. 

TAHC&H members argue that failure to maintain appropriate funding for Medicare and Medicaid programs that support home health, hospice and personal assistance services will threaten access for patients and cost more for taxpayers in the long run.

For example, implementing home health co-payments could lead to more expensive care in the long run – an estimated $19.1 billion in increased Medicare and Medicaid costs – by forcing low-income beneficiaries to ration medications, forgo essential treatment entirely or depend on more costly institutional settings. Reinstating home health co-payments, a proposal currently under consideration, would be a huge step backwards. Congress previously eliminated a co-payment and home health care deductible specifically because it drove patients to more expensive institutional care. 

"The inherent budget savings and positive economic impacts achieved by enabling those who receive these services to remain in their homes rather than be forced into more expensive settings provide common-sense solutions for lawmakers as they look for ways to reduce deficits and sort out federal budget challenges," said Hammon. 

"TAHC&H's message to our federal lawmakers will remain consistent: We need them to strongly consider the effect of their decisions on both home care and hospice patients and Texas taxpayers," said Hammon. "We look forward to continuing to work with legislators, regulators and other stakeholders to ensure our state's patients and taxpayers can continue to benefit from cost-effective home care and hospice services."

The Texas Association for Home Care & Hospice Inc. is a statewide nonprofit trade organization whose mission is to advocate for ethical practices, quality and economic viability of licensed providers of home and community support services in Texas.  For more information, visit www.tahch.org.

SOURCE Texas Association for Home Care & Hospice Inc.