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'50 Nurses from 50 States' Visit Capitol Hill to Preserve Home Health Medicare Benefit for their Patients and All Americans

Nurses Urge Lawmakers to 'Help Us Choose Home' as Home Care Faces $13 Billion in Cuts; New Study Shows Home Care is Cost-Effective

WASHINGTON, May 15 /PRNewswire/ -- This week, home care nurses representing all 50 states traveled to Capitol Hill, fighting to preserve access to home care and hospice services on behalf of their patients -- and all Americans -- amid $13 billion in suggested cuts to the home health benefit in the Obama Administration's proposed 2010 budget.

"These nurses prove yet again that home care professionals are some of the most dedicated people in this nation. Each of these nurses traveled to Washington to fight for something he or she believes in, on behalf of patients who aren't able to speak for themselves," said Val J. Halamandaris, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, which organized the effort. "Anyone who knows or has known a home care patient can attest to the improved quality of life and dignity that home care provides, and I'm so proud of these nurses for standing up for our right to choose home."

The nurses are rallying to preserve a health-care option preferred by most Americans: Nine out of 10 seniors say they would prefer to receive health care at home rather than in an institution. Home care allows people to get the medical attention and supportive services they need in comfortable and familiar surroundings, often with family nearby. But the proposed deep cuts to the home health Medicare benefit are jeopardizing the ability for Americans - including 78 million Baby Boomers who are entering retirement age - to choose home care.

The cuts are being proposed despite research that home care is more cost effective than institutional care. The average home-care visit costs Medicare $150; the average hospital day costs $1,500. An industry study released by Avalere Health Monday indicated that Medicare patients with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or congestive heart failure who received home health care within three months of being discharged from a hospital cost Medicare $1.71 billion less and had 24,000 fewer re-hospitalizations than similar patients who used other forms of post-acute care over a two-year period.

Each nurse brought photos and stories of patients who were not able to represent themselves in Washington and, during meetings with legislators from their home districts, described the ways in which home care has benefited each person. In addition to meeting with lawmakers, the nurses participated in an event to share their patients' stories and reinforce the importance of home care and hospice in our nation's health-care system.

"I've traveled to Washington to share the story of my patient Fay Wormington, of Texarkana, Ark., who was newly retired when she suffered two major strokes," said Arkansas home health nurse Kimberly Schlotter. "Fay was also diagnosed with diabetes and a heart condition, and suffered complications such as the inability to walk and understandably, depression. She was told she might never walk again. Within three weeks of leaving an institution and beginning physical and occupational therapy at home, Fay was on her feet, and has made a remarkable recovery."

Wormington, who plans to travel in an R.V. with her husband of 40 years this summer, credits her recovery to the home health care she received from nurses, including Schlotter.

"It is because of home health that I am able to do the 'little' things in life, like walking, sleeping in my own bed and many of the other freedoms we enjoy in our homes on an everyday basis," Wormington said. "If it were not for home care nurses, aides and therapists, I would not be here today."

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About NAHC

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice represents the lion's share of the nation's 25,000 home care and hospice organizations that provide care to some 12 million people in the U.S. each year. Much of this care is non-medical and involves helping people with personal and supportive care needs, and is paid for privately.

Several NAHC staff members previously worked for key committees and Members of Congress. They helped write Medicare and Medicaid, especially the home health and hospice benefits, as well as legislation making Medicare/Medicaid fraud a felony, and creating the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services and State Medicaid Fraud Units to combat fraud and abuse in public programs.

    For additional information contact:
    Steve Riley or Jamie Lettis at
    (717) 232-5554

SOURCE The National Association for Home Care & Hospice
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