This is a story that has caught very little attention, but needs to be circulated as wide as possible. The world of government-managed health care is about to get very ugly for millions of senior citizens who rely on Medicare for their coverage. Quietly announced on the day after Thanksgiving, the Obama administration has decided to cut Medicare home health benefits to the tune of 14% between 2014 and 2017. Some of America’s most vulnerable citizens are under attack from a liberal administration who is determined to have its way with our health care system.
What does this mean for the companies that provide home health services and the senior citizens who depend on those services to stay out of nursing homes? The outlook is bleak and unpleasant.
Amac - The Administration made this announcement very quietly, waiting to do so until the very end of the last Friday before Thanksgiving, perhaps thinking that most people would not be looking.
To be sure, the timing of the Administration’s quiet announcement did keep it out of sight – for a while. That ended on December 12th, however, when theWashington Examiner broke the story in an article headlined “ObamaCare forcing 14 percent cut in Medicare’s home health program.” FOX News and the Daily Caller have also picked up this story, so full attention is now being paid to this unprecedented cut – and the harm it will do to frail seniors across America.
As the Examiner’s Richard Pollock wrote, “An estimated 3.5 million poor and ill homebound senior citizens will wake up on New Year’s Day to discover ObamaCare has slashed funding for their home health care program.” He’s right: on January 1st, the Obama Administration will sharply cut Medicare funding for home healthcare services.
Totaling a whopping 14 percent between 2014 and 2017, this cut is the maximum allowable under the ObamaCare law. The Administration had the discretion to cut less, or even to make no cuts at all. But they decided to impose the deepest cut made possible by the Affordable Care Act (shouldn’t we be calling this the “Horrible Care Act”?) legislation. And in doing so, they will shift billions of dollars from Medicare to ObamaCare.
This cut is not only unprecedented in its magnitude – it will have a direct and devastating impact on the millions of ailing seniors who want to stay in their homes and not have to move to a facility.
This year, Medicare home health services were delivered to approximately 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries. According to the federal government’s own data, these seniors are older, poorer and sicker than the Medicare beneficiary population as whole. Many of these seniors also reside in rural communities, where home health care is especially important because other sources of treatment are often located many miles away.
The Medicare home health benefit is also of critical importance to younger Americans. Families across America depend on home health services to help them care for their aging parents. Having a skilled nurse come to their homes to deliver needed treatment not only means that Mom and Dad don’t have to go into a nursing home – it also means their adult daughters and sons can balance caring for their parents with raising a family and earning a living.
In light of its importance to millions of seniors and their families, the Medicare home health sector has been one of the nation’s leading creators of new jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thousands of Americans find employment every month in the home health field. Just as important, these jobs are being created by small businesses, which constitute more than 90 percent of all providers of home health services.
But all that’s about to change.
Hidden on page 117 of the regulation that the Obama Administration quietly released on that Friday evening is a stunning admission: “approximately 40 percent” of all providers of home health services face net losses as a result of this Medicare cut. Put more plainly, 4-in-10 of all the providers on whom homebound seniors depend face the threat of bankruptcy and closure as a result of ObamaCare.
While this news is troubling, it is not surprising. We’ve known all along that ObamaCare could not be paid for without new monies coming in. The medical device tax was created to help bring those new monies into ObamaCare. Other funds have been moved from their primary function to help provide funding for ObamaCare. We are now seeing more of that push, directed at the heart of an industry that helps senior citizens keep a portion of their dignity and independence.
The final effects of this newly announced cut to home health providers may not be known for some time, but it takes only minimal extrapolation skills to understand what those effects will be. If home health providers are faced with a 3.5% cut in Medicare payments from 2014 to 2017, they are, in effect, faced with a 14% total cut in three years. This almost assures that many of them will have to cut the services they provide, or go out of business altogether. As the article I quoted explains, this will affect not only senior citizens, but also their support systems, in the form of the family members who help provide their care.
What happens if a family is forced to choose between providing care for an elderly parent or grandparent and working to provide a living for their own immediate family? These cuts could lead to that exact scenario. All because the Obama administration is more focused on paying the bill for ObamaCare, instead of providing decent healthcare for the senior citizens who depend on home health providers for their care.
Of all the egregious and onerous actions taken by President Barack Obama since he was sworn into office, this ranks close to or at the top of the list.
Hat tip to Doug Ross, who gives us the following comic to explain how this is going to work. You can decide yourself if this qualifies as the death panels Sarah Palin tried to warn us about.
UPDATE: This story is also being discussed at Conservative Hideout.