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Congress Must Recognize Homecare as Cost-Effective Part of Health Care Reform
Date:7/20/2009

"Most home medical equipment costs just dollars a day. The cost of providing the equipment and service for home oxygen, for example, is less than $7 per day under Medicare. Compare that to the average daily cost of about $200 for a nursing facility and more than $5,000 per day for a hospital stay under Medicare.

"According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 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 the lack of 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.

"This year, Medicare payments for the most commonly prescribed home medical equipment categories have been cut by 9.5 percent, including complex rehabilitative power wheelchairs. Medical oxygen reimbursement has also been cut by 27 percent so far this year. Home oxygen is a critical, life-sustaining medical treatment prescribed to nearly 1.5 million Medicare patients each year who suffer from respiratory illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

"Another measure aimed at cutting HME costs further has been labeled 'competitive' acquisition. A regulation enacted in the final hours of the Bush administration would selectively contract with a small number of home care providers based on a race to bid the lowest payment. Even among those who agree to new bid-determined payment rates, Medicare only allows a select few to provide the items, which will have the long-term result of reducing the number of companies competing to offer home care products.

"These cuts in reimbursement are having a negative impact on the quality of equipm
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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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