COLUMBUS, Ohio — The trauma of the past two years during the pandemic has reminded us to be cautious. This is especially true for older people and their families.
As the COVID-19 situation in Ohio appears to have finally come to a head, older adults still remain at higher risk for chronic diseases, illnesses, and injuries. This is especially true for older people who have been hospitalized. As we return to more normality, it will be essential to respect the wishes of older people and give them more health options.
Home health care is a safe, effective, and preferred care setting available to Medicare patients after discharge from hospital for chronic or acute illnesses and injuries. In cases where an older adult requires ongoing care after being hospitalized, research has found that they are more comfortable, independent, and safe in their home environment. Survey data also shows that 94% of Medicare beneficiaries prefer to recover safely at home if you are given the option.
While home care is an option for some Ohio seniors, that’s not true for all, especially seniors who have limited support at home. This underscores the need to improve home care services for this unique patient population.
To fill this gap, help modernize America’s post-acute care system and create more options for seniors, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress introduced a bill to expand home health care for the elderly as an alternative to skilled nursing facilities, if clinically appropriate for the patient. If enacted, the Choose the Home Care Act (S. 2562/HR 5514), will provide more Medicare patients with the ability to receive expanded home health services after hospitalization. Choose Home will also allow eligible Medicare beneficiaries to receive extended patient care services such as skilled nursing care, personal practical care, physical therapy, medical social services and medical supplies.
This program also enjoys strong support, as it is well recognized that home-based health care can improve the quality of life and overall well-being of recipients and their families. Many stakeholders — from patient advocates to clinicians to providers — have expressed support for this bill and are urging Congress to move quickly to pass it.
Not only will Choose Home help patients and caregivers, it will also help taxpayers. According to the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the average monthly cost of home health care services is approximately five times lower than the average cost of nursing home care. An independent research firm estimated that the Choose Home program could generate annual Medicare savings of $121 million to $222 million, which would translate to up to $4.8 billion in savings over 10 years at the national level, assuming an increased participation rate of 50% by the fifth year. Savings like this will help extend the solvency and sustainability of the Medicare program.
It is time to prioritize and diversify the delivery of care within our health care system. As the number of older people continues to grow, from 2.6 million to 3.37 million projected in Ohio by 2030it is essential to modernize the Medicare program to meet the needs of patients, while allowing them to choose their preferred setting for receiving health care.
Fortunately, congressional lawmakers have recognized this urgent need. I salute the Washington lawmakers who supported expanding access to home health care and approved the Choose Home Care Act, including U.S. Representative Troy Balderson, a Republican from Zanesville.
It’s important to Ohio voters ask their legislators to co-sponsor this bill so that elderly patients and their families have more options for the care that best suits their personal needs. Please join me in urging our entire Ccongressional delegation to co-sponsor this bipartisan, pro-senior Medicare legislation.
Joseph Russell is the executive director of the Ohio Board for Home Care and Palliative Care.
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