Cleveland Clinic Home Health Chief Urges Congress to Invest in Home Care

Steve Landers, director of home health care at the Cleveland Clinic, said in a letter to Congress that it is the wrong time to consider cuts to Medicare as Washington considers measures to reduce the federal deficit.

Landers, who said he makes house calls to homebound Medicare beneficiaries, stressed that it was time to build the nation’s home care infrastructure.

“Home care teams with engaged physicians, using modern chronic illness and elder care concepts with new remote monitoring and “distance health” technologies can lead to a new care paradigm for the most costly and most suffering beneficiaries and their families,” Landers wrote.

His comments come as Congress struggle with how to reduce spending across the federal agencies while maintaining popular entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. As the debate around the failure of the super committee, the payroll tax extension and unemployment benefits continue to swirl, critics of those programs have maintained that they should be restructured to reduce the financial pressure placed on the overall federal spending landscape.

Landers pointed to the home telehealth, home infusion therapies and expanded roles for physicians and nurse practitioners in home care as a strategy that could make a difference. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are roughly 1.5 million people in the United States receiving home care services, as of 2007. The average length of service is 315 days.

Landers maintained in his letter that with more than 70 million baby boomers set to enroll in those programs, it would be “mistake to enact home care payment cuts and co-pays.”

“Home health co-pays would be an access barrier that would likely force the sickest and most vulnerable homebound Medicare beneficiaries to delay or avoid needed care,” he said.

“In spite of the clear opportunity offered by home care, I implore you to not take the wrong path, choosing to enact home care co-pays which amount to a “sick tax” that could some out of their home into hospitals and facilities,” Landers said.

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