WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society found that house calls to elderly patients with chronic conditions keep healthcare costs down by reducing the need for expensive emergency room visits. The patients who utilize this care are some of Medicare's most costly patients with multiple chronic conditions and difficulty managing medication and understanding when preventative care is needed.
The house call program at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, led by Dr. Eric DeJonge, Chief of Geriatrics at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, sends primary care doctors into the homes of some of Washington's sickest patients. Home visits allow for the doctors to see the patient in their element and get a better sense of the patient's overall health. The study shows that patients who were provided care in the home had 20 percent fewer emergency room visits and saved Medicare $8,477 per patient over a two year period.
The Medicare home health benefit currently serves 3.5 million senior and disabled Americans who, due to their medical condition, are qualified as homebound and receive skilled care in the comfort of their own homes. Unfortunately, due to recent funding cuts to Medicare, 1.3 million of these patients are at risk of losing access to this critically important service.
Starting on January 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began implementing a four year, 3.5 percent annual cut to the Medicare home health benefit, that will slash a total of 14 percent from funding. CMS itself conceded this cut will leave "approximately 40 percent" of providers operating at a net loss by 2017.
"Studies like the recent one from Journal of American Geriatrics Society underscore the need and value that skilled home healthcare plays in the overall healthcare delivery system," stated Eric Berger, CEO of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare. "As the American population rapidly ages and people live longer lives, the need for post-acute care is poised to increase and we must have programs in place to sustain the influx of patients, not spending cuts that threaten access to care."
In order to mitigate the negative effects of the funding cut to the Medicare home health benefit, leaders in Congress have introduced the Securing Access Via Excellence (SAVE) Medicare Home Health Act. The legislation establishes a Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) program, which would reduce hospital readmissions be creating incentives that reward positive outcomes. In this manner the bill would enable millions of seniors to remain in their homes, rather than return to institutional settings, and would achieve significant savings for the Medicare program.
"The house call program at MedStar Washington Hospital reiterates the need for legislation like the SAVE Act that works to keep patients healthy at home," added Berger. "Instead of indiscriminately cutting from a program that is proven to keep patients healthier at a lower cost, we need to Congress to put forth patient centered solutions that encourage the use of skilled home healthcare."
The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare was established to assist government officials in ensuring access to skilled home healthcare services for seniors and disabled Americans. Representing more than 2,000 community- and hospital-based home healthcare agencies across the U.S., the Partnership is dedicated to developing innovative reforms to improve the quality, efficiency and integrity of home healthcare. To learn more, visit www.homehealth4america.org. To join the home healthcare policy conversation, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and our blog.
SOURCE Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare