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Linda Leone, Published August 10 2009

Home health care will be damaged

The Tri-Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives (Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means and Education and Labor Committees) has developed a plan for health care reform that expands health care coverage to all Americans. It is funded by enacting significant cuts in existing Medicare programs, including the home health benefit. Medicare-paid home care is the home care that provides skilled nurses, therapists and aides after an illness or surgery.

The cut to home care will total $51 billion over 10 years. Home care is estimated to be only 4 percent of the total Medicare budget. The cut to home care is about 10 percent of the proposed total. Should the home care industry bear more than its share of the burden? If enacted, 90 percent of North Dakota home care agencies will have a negative margin by 2011.

North Dakota has already lost one agency to a negative margin. Will the remaining agencies be able to sustain the cuts in reimbursement for the services they provide? Will more North Dakota home health care agencies close? Patients will still require care and may decide to forgo care or be admitted to a higher per-day cost setting.

I agree we need health care reform in our nation, but why reform on the backs of our frail, elderly and disabled? Please, contact your senators and congressmen about this important benefit and let them know that home care is an important benefit that needs to survive.

Leone, RN, is president/CEO of Prairieland Home Care