In Sunday’s edition of The Washington Post, the editorial board called on Congress to make repairs to Medicare in reduce spending and make the benefit sustainable in the long-run. One of the board’s recommended reforms is the imposition of a 10% copay for home health services:
“Among the fastest-growing Medicare costs is home health care, projected by the CBO to double to $52 billion in 2021. Imposing a 10 percent co-pay — about $600 on average — for each 60-day episode would save $40 billion over a decade.”
The home care industry has led the fight to oppose copays in recent years, noting the negative impact it will have on seniors’ access to care and the increase in government spending on more expensive institutional care. Neither cost-savings benefit was not mentioned in the Post’s editorial. In response, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice penned a letter to the editor spelling out why a copay isn’t a quick fix to rising Medicare expenditures.
The Post editorial, “Repairs to Medicare” suggests imposing a copay on Medicare home health services. Such a proposal is actually harmful to efforts to control Medicare spending. It also is based on a clearly incorrect factual foundation.
A copay will lead to higher Medicare spending as beneficiaries shift to higher cost hospital and nursing facility care to avoid it. Recent studies show that new copays on the lowest cost care settings backfire. Congress ended home health copays in 1972 to encourage use of more economical home care services. We need such sensible solutions to controlling health care costs even more today.
Also, the typical home health patient is in her 80s and poor. A copay becomes a “sick tax” on our most vulnerable citizens.
Finally, the Post is wrong on the facts. Home health has one of the lowest growth rates in Medicare, much lower than more costly nursing facility care. CBO projects spending of $34.1 billion, only 3.6% of total Medicare spending, rather than “to double to $52 billion in 2021” reported by the Post.
The Post has a responsibility to get the facts straight before it suggests Medicare changes that affect millions of Americans.
Val J. Halamandaris, President, National Association for Home Care & Hospice
Copays and additional cuts are on the table once again as Congress addresses the debt ceiling and a potential 2% across-the-board cut for federal programs, including Medicare provider reimbursement for home health services. Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into effect, home care has been cut more than 20% in provider payments. Click the button below and send an email to Congress letting them know that the home health care industry cannot sustain more cuts, and that a copay would adversely impact access to care and amount to a sick tax on America’s sickest seniors!