HOME HEALTH: HCFA Reports ‘Staggering Drop’ in Outlays
New HCFA data reveals a startling decrease in home health services between 1997 and 1998 due to the cuts invoked by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA). HCFA reports that "Medicare home health payments fell a dramatic 38%" and some 2,500 Medicare certified home care agencies, closed nationwide during that period. Further, "utilization and spending for Medicare home health decreased by no less than 6% in every state. Per patient reimbursements decreased from an average of $4,705 to $3,412 and average visits per patient decreased from 73 to 51." The decline in service to patients is of great concern considering "the expected growth in the home health population due to an aging society and increased longevity." It is obvious to officials that the attempts to slow Medicare growth in home health through the BBA has had adverse effects. "Home health has received the largest portion of Medicare cuts of any health care segment under the BBA. Although home care represents just 7% of the Medicare program, it has been burdened with more than 20% of the Medicare reductions imposed by the act." Fortunately, key congressional players such as Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA), chair of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, and Sen. William Roth (R-DE), chair of the Senate Finance Committee have pledged their support to reversing the damage caused by the BBA through new legislation this year (HCFA release, 10/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.