The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently proposed significant cuts to home healthcare payment rates beginning as early as 2023. Home health agencies across the country are imploring Congress to act so that patients across the country will continue to have access to affordable, quality care.
New CMS payment rule proposes billions in steep cuts to home health care
The CMS proposed rule, first released on June 17, will cut rates by an unprecedented, permanent -7.69% ($1.33 billion in 2023 alone). The net result of this, including inflation updates, would include a 4.2% decrease to aggregate home health payments, or $810 million less than 2022. CMS is also trying to claw back more than $2 billion from the sector as early as 2024.
The cumulative impact of these cuts is billions of dollars being carved out of the Medicare home health program. Providers are already facing significant challenges due to the pandemic. This cut will continue to threaten patient care and access to affordable care. Small, rural, and medically underserved communities will be uniquely harmed as well.
Medicare payment cuts threaten home health care system – valued by America’s seniors and people with disabilities
Being cared for in the home is the most preferred and safest choice for our patients. 94% of Medicare beneficiaries have stated that post-hospital stays, they prefer to recover and receive care in the comfort of their own home. Reducing payments to home health threatens access to vital care in the home. Previous payment cuts have already reduced access to care for patients. As a result, costs of care will go up leading to increased hospital readmission rates, unnecessary hospitalizations, and increased use of short-term skilled nursing stays. Additional payment cuts will only exacerbate the decline in workforce. Home health agencies are burdened by high inflation rates of over 8%. Fuel costs have also increased 53% since the beginning of 2022 peculiarly impacting home healthcare providers who drive to visit their patients.
The Preserving Access to Home Health Act
The Preserving Access to Home Health Act would prevent CMS from reducing home health payments from taking effect prior to 2026. Any adjustment that would be needed to ensure budget neutrality under the new home health payment system would still be made within the budget window. In order to achieve budget neutrality, Medicare would need to note that payment increases were needed to be able to see adjustments upward to support access to care. Although the Preserving Access to Home Health Act has been introduced, there are still many steps to be done in order for it to be implemented.
We are reaching out and asking for your support. Please communicate these needs to your local congressmen to prevent these home health cuts so we can continue to provide our patients the care our community deserves.
Madison Kunkel, RN, Healing Hands Healthcare clinical supervisor and chair of Advocacy Committee