Home is where the Health is: Preserving Access to Home Healthcare

By: Nancy Verdin, Graduate Assistant, SDSU Social Policy Institute

When you think of going home, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It’s probably the warmth of those familiar pictures on the walls, the comfort of your own bed, and the reassuring presence of your cherished belongings. Home is where the heart is, but more importantly, it’s where health should be. 

A sentiment supported in testimonies presented before the United States Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, like the one provided by Dr. Muroz, an Associate Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Muroz’s testimony emphasized, “Medicare’s home health benefit provides an opportunity to support aging in place for the approximately 3 million fee-for-service beneficiaries who receive home health care annually”. 

Home healthcare benefits can offer patients the option to receive skilled nursing, physical therapy, and support from medical social workers. More importantly, these services provide  individuals in recovery with the opportunity to maintain their independence and remain in their homes. 

However, this comforting vision of healthcare at home could be under threat due to a proposal in the budget by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. They’re suggesting a permanent reduction of 9.36% in payment rates for Medicare home health services, starting in 2024.

What does this mean?

This proposal translates to a staggering $20 billion reduction in payments for home healthcare over the next decade. If this cut goes into effect, it could mean a reduction in funding by approximately $151,259,535 for home healthcare services in California alone

These changes could have lasting and profound consequences, particularly for the aging population and their caregivers, including: 

Losing Access to Vital Care: There’s a risk of losing access to critical medical care at home, potentially leading to more hospitalizations or even moving into institutional care.

Diminished Quality of Care: Patients may find themselves receiving fewer services or less frequent visits from healthcare professionals, which could impact their health outcomes and overall well-being.

Financial Burden: Families may face an increased financial burden if they have to cover more of the cost for home healthcare services, which can be especially challenging for those with limited financial resources.

Reevaluating Long-Term Plans: Individuals and families may need to rethink their long-term care plans if home healthcare becomes less accessible or affordable, potentially leading to tough decisions about nursing homes or other care options.

Bipartisan bill SB 2137 “Preserving Access to Home Health Act of 2023, was introduced to the U.S. Senate by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME), which seeks to maintain allocated funding and protect essential home medical care. 

What can you do:

As we await further developments, you can also take action by urging Congress to prioritize home healthcare through this link: Take Action. Your voice can help ensure that healthcare at home remains accessible and continues to provide comfort and care where it’s needed most.