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Sewell introduces bipartisan legislation to protect access to home health

This bipartisan legislation would prevent proposed cuts to home health payment rates from taking effect.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell during a committee hearing. Office of Rep. Terri Sewell
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U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell, AL-07, and Adrian Smith, NE-03, introduced the Preserving Access to Home Health Act of 2023. This bipartisan legislation would help preserve access to home health services for seniors and Americans with disabilities by preventing proposed cuts to home health payment rates from taking effect.

“Home health services are a lifeline for so many Alabama seniors and people with disabilities, allowing patients to receive the treatment they need in the comfort of their own homes,”said Rep. Sewell.“I am very concerned about the impact that proposed cuts to Medicare’s home health program would have on these patients and their families. It is imperative that we prevent such cuts from taking effect, which is why I’m introducing the Preserving Access to Home Health Act in the House of Representatives. I want to thank Rep. Smith for his collaboration in this bipartisan effort, and I urge my colleagues to join us.”

“Home health can lower the cost of care for patients and help hospitals to safely transition patients back to home living,”said Rep. Adrian Smith.“I have serious concerns these planned cuts to Medicare would result in worse outcomes for seniors and higher costs burdens in the long run. This bill would halt the counterproductive payment cuts and increase transparency in Medicare payment policy calculations. I thank my Senate colleagues and Rep. Sewell for their collaboration on this bill.” 

Home health care allows approximately 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries to be treated in the cost-effective setting they prefer most—their homes. Home health services are a lifeline for seniors, people with disabilities, and those with limited mobility, and became even more essential during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In June, Medicare announced plans to implement cuts totaling -9.36 percent to its home healthcare program starting in 2024, on top of the 3.9 percent cut that began in 2023. These new cuts could total up to $20 billion over the next 10 years and could make it harder for patients to leave the hospital and go home with care that helps them recover and rehabilitate.

The Preserving Access to Home Health Act would address the deep cuts made to home health that began this year and will continue until at least 2028. The legislation: 

  • Restricts CMS from making any cuts to home health.
  • Requires MedPAC, which advises Congress on payment policy, to gain a full understanding of the economics of the home healthcare system, including how the Medicare program, the Medicaid program, and the Medicare Advantage program all contribute to a system. 

“Patients leaving the hospital need a smooth transition home but are finding it increasingly difficult to find Medicare home health providers, signaling an immediate need for Congress to intervene and block Medicare from making such strident cuts to home health again this year,” said Joanne Cunningham, CEO of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare. “Data suggest that Medicare’s continued cuts to home health are restricting patient access to the safest and lowest-cost care setting following a hospital stay.”

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“The Medicare home health community strongly supports this legislation and thanks Representatives Sewell and Smith for their leadership on a Medicare issue that truly threatens access to care for the more than 3 million beneficiaries who rely on this care,” said William A. Dombi, President of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. “The home health community calls on Congress to ensure the stability that patients and providers urgently need. Since Medicare has again proposed deep cuts to home health in 2024, Congress must act to protect the care their constituents prefer and want.”

“We commend Congresswoman Sewell for her commitment to home health and for leading this bipartisan legislation to help ensure Medicare’s invaluable home health care services are available when patients need them most,” said Barbara Jacobsmeyer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Enhabit Home Health & Hospice. “Congresswoman Sewell has been a true champion for home health issues during her time in Congress, and she understands how home health helps patients and families transition from hospital to home with compassionate, patient-centered care. Whether patients are recovering from surgery or managing a chronic illness or recent injury, Medicare home health is an essential part of the care continuum. We are grateful for the support from the Congresswoman and look forward to working with others in Congress to help protect Medicare’s home health benefit.”

Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, and Susan Collins, R-ME, introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate on June 22.

Bill text can be found here.

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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