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The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) Joins Sens. Susan Collins and Bob Casey and Reps. Jim McGovern and Walter Jones in Urging Access to Home Health Care
Date:10/18/2007

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Senators Susan M. Collins (R-ME) and Robert P. Casey (D-PA) introduced the Home Health Care Access Protection Act of 2007 (S. 2181) today to prevent the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from imposing dramatic cuts to the Medicare home health program. A companion bill, H.R. 3865, has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen Jim McGovern (D-3rd-MA) and Walter Jones, Jr. (R-3rd-NC). The cuts, scheduled to take effect January 1, 2008, would likely lead to reduced beneficiary access to services provided by home health care providers. The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Christopher Bond (R-MO) and would block the 11.75% cuts to the home health program over four years.

"These proposed administrative cuts would be just devastating," said Sen. Susan Collins. "It is particularly troubling because the Medicare home health benefit has already taken a larger hit in spending cuts over the past ten years than any other Medicare benefit. In fact, home care, as a share of Medicare spending, has dropped from 8.7% in 1997 to only 3.2% today. And it's projected to decline to just 2.6% of Medicare spending in 2015."

"The legislation that we're introducing today will block the administrative cuts that have been proposed by CMS as part of a new regulation that was issued in August. It will also establish a reliable and transparent process for the Department of Health & Human Services to use to justify payment rates," said Sen. Collins. "Home care has specifically been proven to be a compassionate, cost-effective means of delivering essential health services. If these cuts go through, the impact will not just be on the home health agencies; the impact will be most felt by the seniors and disabled citizens. They are the ones who ultimately will be hurt by cuts of this magnitude."

"I have been a strong supporter of home health care services during my time in Congress, and I am proud to introduce this legislation," said Rep. Jim McGovern. "Making further, deep cuts in home health care services is not just wrong, it's bad fiscal policy. We know that home health care is a cost-effective, compassionate way to deliver high-quality services. The CMS proposal makes no sense, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move our legislation through the Congress."

"Senators Collins, Casey, Bond, Reed, Cantwell and Roberts and Representatives McGovern and Jones are to be commended for their act of conscience and courage in overturning this shortsighted policy and seeking to preserve for all Americans the fundamental right articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court to be cared for in the least restrictive environment -- at home," said Val J. Halamandaris, President of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. "We are deeply grateful that they have made this critical issue a top priority of their legislative efforts."

Jeffrey Kincheloe, Director of Government Affairs for NAHC, said that "while the need for home care is increasing, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have sought to decrease rather than increase Medicare home health funding. CMS has scheduled a $6 billion cut on Medicare home health beneficiaries who are, by definition, ill and homebound and cannot fight for themselves. Such cuts are unconscionable and out of touch with reality."

Unless Congress intervenes, fewer people will have access to care, those who do qualify will receive less care, more than 50% of all Medicare providers will be paid less than it costs them to provide services, many home health providers will go out of business, and overall Medicare costs will increase because patients who had been receiving care at home will be forced to receive their care at five to ten times the cost in overcrowded hospital emergency rooms or nursing homes. Others will simply go without the care that is vital to their health.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice represents the interests of nearly 25,000 home health agencies, home care aide organizations and hospices as well as the caregivers that provide services to more than seven million Americans each year. NAHC members believe that quality home care and hospice, a humane and cost-effective alternative to institutionalization, is the right of all Americans. Home care and hospice provide important skilled nursing, therapy, supportive services and self-care training and work in concert with the care provided by family members and friends. Home care encourages maximum independence of thought and functioning as well as the preservation of human dignity. Visit NAHC's Web site at http://www.nahc.org.


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SOURCE National Association for Home Care & Hospice
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