The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare – a leading coalition of skilled home healthcare providers dedicated to improving the integrity, quality, and efficiency of home health for our nation's seniors – today applauded the introduction of new Medicare legislation that would replace across-the-board rebasing cuts with targeted reform that improves the quality of home healthcare services.
The Securing Access Via Excellence (SAVE) Medicare Home Health Act – introduced today by Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) and Representative Tom Price (R-GA) – offers an alternative to the 14 percent, four-year rebasing cuts instituted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on January 1. The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act would repeal the rebasing cuts, which CMS has projected will force "approximately 40 percent" of all home health providers to suffer net loss.
In their place, the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act utilizes hospital readmission reform to achieve savings by improving care for Medicare beneficiaries and reducing avoidable spending. The new legislation is essential to safeguarding access to home healthcare services for seniors across the U.S. According to an Avalere Health analysis, CMS' projection that "approximately 40 percent" of providers will suffer net loss as a result of the rebasing cuts could put more than 1.3 million seniors and 465,000 home health jobs at risk. Further, Avalere determined that the seniors who would be impacted are among the most vulnerable in the Medicare program, since they are older, poorer, sicker and more likely to be disabled and of an ethnic or racial minority than all other Medicare beneficiaries combined. In addition, Avalere found that home health beneficiaries, the professional caregivers who serve them, and the family members who support them are disproportionately comprised of women.
"We applaud Congressmen Walden and Price for taking this very important step to securing seniors' access to the high-quality, cost-reducing home healthcare that they prefer," said Eric Berger, CEO of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare. "By repealing the rebasing cuts beginning January 1, 2015, this legislation will help millions of seniors, family members, and professional caregivers."
Central to the legislation is a Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program, which is modeled after the reform recently enacted for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act's VBP program would reduce hospital readmissions by establishing 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.
"Incentivizing home healthcare agencies to deliver high-quality care to beneficiaries and reduce hospital readmission rates represents a positive and proven approach to achieving savings without disrupting patient care," said Mr. Berger. "With 3.5 million seniors currently depending on skilled home healthcare, policy solutions such as this are vital to preserving and improving these essential services."
The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act is also designed to be budget neutral, as the HHS Secretary would ensure VBP savings are sufficient to offsetting the repeal of the current rebasing cuts. Proponents of the bill point out, however, that because home health agencies will be incentivized to help patients remain in their homes rather than be readmitted for costly hospital stays, even greater savings are likely.
"The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act is a sustainable and patient-centered approach to achieving Medicare savings," said Mr. Berger. "We are thankful to the many lawmakers who are working so diligently to protect seniors' access to skilled home healthcare services, and we look forward to working with them in the months ahead to see that this important reform proposal becomes law."
Additional cosponsors of the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act, introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives, include Representatives Charles Boustany (LA-3), Sean Duffy (WI-7), Renee Ellmers (NC-2), Sam Graves (MO-6), Tom Latham (IA-3), David McKinley (WV-1), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5), Erik Paulsen (MN-3) and Glenn Thompson (PA-5).
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