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Letters: Louisiana lawmakers stand up for home health

June 4, 2019
In The News

Louisiana has a long history of supporting skilled home health care, a valuable service that allows our aging friends and neighbors to remain healthy and independent in their homes. Louisiana is home to two of the nation’s leading home health care companies. We are also fortunate to have lawmakers who understand that home health care is cost-effective and a patient-preferred.

This support is incredibly important to the more than 65,000 Louisianans on Medicare who depend on home health care. Home health care reduces hospital readmissions and is vital to our economy. Home health employs more than 20,000 workers with an economic impact of nearly a billion dollars annually in Louisiana.

Today, we can count another blessing: the leadership of U.S. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy as well as U.S. Reps. Ralph Abraham and Garret Graves, who have helped introduce federal legislation that would protect Medicare home healthcare from a new payment policy that threatens the care so many here want and need.

Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services developed a new policy that changes how providers are paid for providing home health. The Patient-Driven Groupings Model would let Medicare make “behavioral adjustments” to provider payments based on assumptions about what caregivers might do instead of evidence of how they actually serve Medicare patients.

At the outset, Medicare has indicated that this new payment model will cut reimbursement rates across the board by 6.42% — or roughly $1 billion nationally in 2020. It’s a big number, with enormous implications for seniors and our home health care workforce.

Legislation introduced by Kennedy, Cassidy, Abraham, Graves and their bipartisan colleagues, however, is a strong step toward undoing the damage before it starts.

The Home Health Payment Innovation Act (S. 433/H.R. 2573) requires Medicare to remove assumptions from the equation and bases payment on facts. In doing so, it facilitates a much smoother transition to the new payment system.

We commend CMS for working toward reforms that strengthen the Medicare program and reduce costs. However, PDGM isn’t the way. There is too much room for errors that could impact healthcare services for our elderly and aging population when they need it most.

On behalf of Louisiana’s home health community, I thank our lawmakers for their thoughtful approach to reform — and their commitment to Louisiana’s seniors and dedicated home health care professionals. I hope our other lawmakers will join Kennedy, Cassidy, Abraham and Graves in supporting the Home Health Payment Innovation Act, and the growing number of Louisianans who it will serve in years to come.

Warren Hébert

Homecare Association of Louisiana

May 30, 2019