Gas Prices? Medicare Cuts? When it Rains it Floods for Home Care

Posted Saturday, March 19, 2022

By Liza Berger
Kaiser Health News

Feeling a bit of a crunch lately with workforce costs? That is understandable as inflation, gas prices and this persistent caregiver shortage create upward pressure on home care providers and their labor expenses.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission this week dealt another blow to home care agencies when it formally called on Congress to trim the base payment rate to home health agencies by 5% next year.

Providers were not shy about expressing their outrage.

“Proposed new cuts on top of an already precarious financial position due to historical insufficient reimbursement, impacts of the pandemic, the increasing workforce crisis, inflation, rising transportation costs and more will further devastate an already struggling sector of the healthcare system at a time when unprecedented demand is continuing to rise,” Home Care Association of New York President Al Cardillo told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. “Many vulnerable patients will be unable to receive vital services.”

And there is, dare I add, yet another hit coming around the bend: a 1% Medicare sequestration cut, which is scheduled to take effect on April 1.

Is there any relief in sight? In these times, it’s hard not to see the gray skies. Still, like the spring weather that is inevitably around the corner, you can take heart that the winds shifting to home care have not subsided.

A few bright spots: More Medicare funding is heading into the home. State governments are rebalancing Medicaid long-term services and supports to home care and away from institutions. Telehealth flexibilities are here at least a while longer, if not indefinitely. Hospital-at-home is changing the face of home care. And Congress may yet pass the Choose Home bill this year.

You can’t reverse the field’s tremendous gains in recent years and especially during the pandemic. The word about home care is out; there is no taking it back.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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