Home healthcare has gained great popularity with many seniors in the U.S. It was especially welcomed during the Covid pandemic because it allows seniors to get the health care, they needed without having to go to a hospital or nursing home, where chances of infection were so much greater.
However, despite the popularity and advantages of home health care, Medicare is considering implementing a permanent nearly 8% cut in payments to home health services. This would mean dramatic cuts in services that were provided to seniors and disabled people during the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic and getting back an estimated $1.2 billion that has already been spent for services provided in 2022 – something that is called a clawback. These cuts and clawbacks, which could reach an estimated $18 billion over the next 10 years, would be a devastating blow to the more than 3.5 million people whose home health care is covered by Medicare.
One analysis suggests that the cuts and clawbacks could put 44% of America’s home health agencies at risk of closing, seriously risking beneficiaries’ access to care, especially in rural and underserved communities.
The population of Medicare home health beneficiaries has grown older and sicker. More than 25% of home health users across the country are over the age of 85, and 43% have five or more chronic health conditions, compared to just 22% of all Medicare patients. That means these cuts will target some of the sickest, most at-risk older Americans.
These cuts would further limit access to home health care, which is already being stretched by booming demand as many Americans want to stay out of the hospital to avoid contracting the coronavirus and other infectious illnesses and made worse by a shortage of home health workers, sparked in part by low pay.
That’s why TSCL is pleased that lawmakers in Congress have introduced the Preserving Access to Home Health Act of 2022 (H.R. 8581 and S. 4605). This bipartisan legislation, currently before the House and Senate, would prevent Medicare from imposing these cuts until 2026, ensuring that people have continued access to care and giving providers the stability, they need while Medicare takes more time to improve its payment system.
We will have more information on this legislation in future updates.