Florida Lawmakers Urge Speaker Boehner to Reduce Medicare Costs Through Home Health Program Integrity and Quality Improvement

Eleven GOP lawmakers express concern about impact proposed home healthcare copayment will have on overall Medicare costs and Florida seniors

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a letter issued to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), 11 members of Florida's Congressional delegation expressed support for a reform plan developed by the home healthcare community that will improve the Medicare home healthcare benefit and generate significant healthcare savings by strengthening program integrity.  Lawmakers who signed the letter include Representatives Rich Nugent, C.W. Bill Young, Tom Rooney, Ander Crenshaw, Dennis Ross, Allen West, Bill Posey, Sandy Adams, David Rivera, Connie Mack and Gus Bilirakis.

"As lawmakers diligently work towards developing long-lasting solutions to tough problems, we ask that our leaders take a good look at the program improvements the home healthcare community has put forth that will not only improve care, but also create much sought-after savings," said Billy Tauzin, senior advisor to the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare.  "We applaud these lawmakers from Florida for recognizing the value in this plan and thank them for their ongoing support."

In addition to asking Speaker Boehner to consider the home healthcare community's reform proposal, the lawmakers cautioned that instituting a copayment for seniors requiring clinically-effective home healthcare could have negative consequences. Copays could place an undue burden on seniors and increase Medicare costs by forcing seniors to seek care in costlier healthcare settings.  A recent analysis by Avalere Health found that copayments for home healthcare services will potentially increase Medicare spending for inpatient hospital and post-acute care (PAC) treatment by up to $16.7 billion over ten years.

Avalere also found that a home health copayment – as much as $300 per 60-day episode – would place significant financial burden on America's poorest and most vulnerable seniors.  America's home healthcare beneficiaries tend to be poorer than the typical Medicare beneficiary; 52 percent have incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line (less than $21,780 per year for an individual), compared to 41 percent of the overall Medicare population.  

Excerpts from the lawmaker's letter to Speaker Boehner include:

"To its credit, the home healthcare industry is proposing thoughtful reforms that will strengthen program integrity and achieve substantial savings without burdening beneficiaries.  Among the home health community's proposals are measures that will strengthen the ability and integrity of the benefit, ensure payment is not made for abusive service utilization, and establish initiatives that will drive innovation and reduce program costs."

"This bold reform plan deserves your attention because it will establish much-needed fraud and abuse fighting mechanisms and achieve substantial, scorable savings."

"In contrast to the aforementioned reform proposals, we are concerned that the imposition of a home healthcare copayment and misguided cuts would seriously impact frail seniors and actually result in increased Medicare costs for Florida beneficiaries."

The home health community is advocating a savings plan that will reduce Medicare costs through program integrity improvements rather than increased fees on seniors who require home health services.

SOURCE Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare