Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Roll Call Prints Editorial on Home Care: A Critical Health Care Reform Solution

This week Roll Call is running an editorial by Tyler Wilson, President of the American Association for Homecare, in their online policy forum. The piece states:

“Current proposals under consideration in Washington will undoubtedly limit Americans’ choice to access home medical equipment and services. But what many policymakers don’t realize is that further cuts to this sector are also likely to increase Medicare costs over time because they will force more people into nursing homes and hospitals and spur more frequent visits to emergency rooms. If legislators are serious about lowering Medicare costs, they should understand that home care is actually a cost-effective alternative to more expensive forms of care, and should therefore be a critical component — not a casualty — of American health care reform.

Access to quality home medical equipment reduces health care costs. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that up to one-fifth of all Medicare patients are readmitted to hospitals within one month of being discharged. These unplanned visits cost Medicare an estimated $17 billion in 2004. One reason for the high readmission rates is that there is no continued interaction and guidance once patients are dismissed. Home medical equipment providers help to fill this gap by smoothing the transition from hospital to home with the equipment and services patients need.”

The editorial also discusses the limited price of receiving home oxygen as compared to a day in the hospital or nursing facilities. Medicare pays less the $7 per day for equipment and services for home oxygen. The average daily cost for nursing facilities is $200 and hospital stays are more than $5,000 per day. Mr. Wilson described the reimbursement cuts oxygen has already received, totaling 27 percent so far this year.

“Home medical equipment and service is already the most cost-effective slowest-growing portion of Medicare spending, increasing only 0.75 percent per year, according to the latest National Health Expenditures data from Medicare. That compares to more than 6 percent annual growth for Medicare spending overall. Moreover, home medical equipment represents only 1.6 percent of the Medicare budget.”

To read the full editorial, please visit: http://www.rollcall.com/news/36487-1.html

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