By Stericycle Staff | Jan. 07, 2015

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka ObamaCare, has received more than its share of criticism since its passage in 2010. The criticism has only increased as time has gone by and it seemingly has come from every direction.

The skilled home health care area of healthcare is no exception. Recently, in an op/ed piece published in The Hill newspaper, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) disparaged the cuts in Medicare home health support.

Concerns about impacts

In the article, Douglas Holtz-Eakin pointed out that skilled home health care has always been a key part of the Medicare program due to two main advantages:

Cost-effectiveness. The home is a less-expensive venue for care than institutional venues.

Care coordination. No doubt this is due to the fact that physicians and care providers visit the patient in their home, in contrast to any other form of care outside of a hospital.

In his article, Dr. Holtz-Eakin states that the ACA cut Medicare funding for home health care by an unprecedented 14 percent over four years—“…a classic case of the appeal of a line item on a budget spreadsheet trumping good policy. The reality is that this cut is so deep that the administration itself admitted it will drive ‘approximately 40 percent’ of all home health agencies into the red by 2017. Put another way, this ObamaCare cut will cause nearly half of all the home health providers in America to layoff caregivers, sell their agencies, or declare bankruptcy.”

Dr. Holtz-Eakin foresees dire consequences from the budget cuts for both seniors and taxpayers. These include:

  • Higher Medicare costs as many seniors are forced into more expensive institutional settings
  • The loss of as many as 465,000 professional caregiver jobs
  • A higher likelihood of those who receive skilled home health care services to be older, sicker and poorer—as well as women, minorities and disabled—than other Medicare beneficiaries. Thus, the most vulnerable subpopulation in the Medicare program will become even more vulnerable.
  • Greater vulnerability for patients in rural areas who depend on access to skilled home health care; it is estimated that 1.3 million seniors could lose their access to care. The result will be seniors traveling long distances to receive care—the opposite of what the Medicare home health benefit was designed to prevent.

Regardless of funding level, communication is key

Political debate aside, the clinical advantages of home health are numerous. Perhaps most importantly, studies show that patients prefer receiving care in their own homes rather than in institutional settings. So it appears that home health care is here to stay, even if the funding required to make it work to patients’ maximum advantage is tighter than some prefer.

Whether enough home health funding is available or not, this type of care requires sound agency-to-provider communication so that providers can deliver optimal health outcomes. Providers must not be required to answer every inquiry via their cell phones; they must be able to focus on delivering care and fielding urgent clinical inquiries. That is where a contact center services partner that offers both live voice and automated services can provide a boost to care coordination efforts.

Contact us today and let us show you how we can help you make your agency-to-provider communication work more effectively and efficiently. We’re here to help!



Author: Stericycle Staff

Stericycle has been delivering communication services to North American companies for over 25 years. Since 2011, we’ve been blogging about how to deliver best-in-class communications to patients and consumers – providing practical advice and current best practices for both healthcare and commercial organizations. We hope you enjoy and keep reading!
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