A group of senators sent a letter to President Joe Biden last week urging him and his administration to look after the Medicare home health benefit.
Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) all signed the letter.
“We are writing today to urge your Administration to continue protecting Medicare beneficiaries’
access to home health care,” the senators wrote. “We strongly support the Medicare home health benefit, which provides vital services to beneficiaries across the country, creating value for the Medicare program by serving patients in lower cost settings while allowing them to receive high quality skilled care. Home health services are essential to increasing the health, safety, and quality of life for beneficiaries and their families. We are concerned that significant reductions to home health care reimbursement would create access to care issues for Medicare beneficiaries.”
In June, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed a 2.2% aggregate decrease to home health payments for 2024. Home health providers also viewed the CY2023 final rule as unfavorable.
In their letter, the senators got into those payment specifics – including potential market basket errors from CMS – as well as the notable increase in referral rejection rates over the past few years in home health care.
“For CY2024, CMS has proposed a further -5.653% permanent adjustment to the 30-day base payment rate, resulting in a significant and concerning -9.36% permanent reduction,” the letter read. “This year’s Medicare cut is on top of $3.7 billion in cuts to the Medicare home health program since 2020. These cuts are having a devastating impact on Medicare patients who rely on these services to stay in their homes while recovering and rehabilitating from serious conditions.”
In all likelihood, the final payment rule is going to be released at some point this week. It generally is released at the end of October or beginning of November.
Sen. Stabenow introduced the Preserving Access to Home Health Act with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) earlier this year.
The Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Health Care also held a home health-related hearing in September, which demonstrated more lawmaker support for home health providers in their fight against payment cuts.
“We strongly support the Medicare home health benefit, which provides vital skilled home care services to beneficiaries and strengthens the Medicare trust fund by providing such services in a relatively low-cost setting,” the letter read. “We look forward to working with you to improve the Medicare program and ensure beneficiaries have access to care in their homes.”
The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare (PQHH) thanked the senators for their support on Tuesday.
“The Partnership commends Senator Stabenow and her female colleagues in the Senate for calling attention to the importance of home health to American families across the country and the need for Medicare to consider the impact cuts to home health will have on access to care for beneficiaries,” PQHH CEO Joanne Cunningham said in a statement.