Homecare is Most Cost-Effective Care for Seniors
Published by The Patriot-News
August 30, 2012
Although some might not be familiar with homecare, it is important for people to recognize ó particularly decision makers in Washington ó how these services effectively address our seniorsí and disabled residentsí care needs.
Homecare allows seniors to stay in their homes, often at a much more affordable cost than going into a facility. It enables homebound individuals to receive high-quality clinical services, utilize advanced technologies and recover from surgery and illness in the comfort of their own homes ó all while saving the care system money.
Homecare services are utilized by people of all ages and backgrounds. However, the program is predominantly used by elderly Medicare beneficiaries with multiple health conditions and limited economic means.
To qualify for the Medicare home health benefit, individuals must be homebound and require skilled nursing or therapy. Nationwide, nearly 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries receive skilled home health care services. They can now receive a variety of essential medical treatments ranging from monitoring for congestive heart failure to physical therapy to diabetes medications in the comfort of their own homes.
Though these types of services were once only offered in a hospital or physicianís office, now thanks to innovative technologies and greater coordination among care providers, they can be delivered safely, effectively and efficiently in the home by skilled caregivers.
Homecare has the ability to play a tremendous role in reducing care spending by treating more people in a cost-effective manner at a fraction of the cost of other institutional settings.
A recent study of Medicare claims data showed that when used as the first post-acute care setting for hip fracture patients, homecare saves the Medicare system $5,411 per patient. But savings such as these might be harder to come by in the future with fewer providers due to the impact of disproportionate cuts to homecare since 2010 and additional cuts proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
While homecare makes up only 4 percent of the Medicare budget, it has taken 10 percent of the cuts since 2010, with even more proposed. A recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between now and 2020 home health aides will be one of the fastest-growing occupations. However, those jobs might not materialize with additional cuts.
On behalf of the millions of our nationís elderly who are thriving thanks to skilled homecare, I hope our lawmakers will safeguard these vital services as they make important decisions in Washington.
Cuts to Medicare and proposed co-pays could hurt this industry that so many rely on. That is why the Pennsylvania Homecare Association is participating in ďBring the Vote Home,Ē a nationwide citizenship project to help senior, disabled and homebound Americans who have difficulty traveling to polling places cast their votes during the 2012 election.
Speaking for the patients we serve in their homes, I strongly urge our lawmakers to hear our voices and consider the unique value that homecare offers to beneficiaries as well as the extensive savings it allows for the Medicare program. ź