Home Health Care Scheduled for Additional 15% Cut

Feb 15, 2002
(Washington, D.C.)–As the House Budget Committee begins consideration of the Fiscal Year 2003 budget, Congressman Jim Langevin and several colleagues appealed to committee members to eliminate further scheduled cuts to Medicare’s Home Health Care payments.  The scheduled cut was mandated by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act.

 The next scheduled cut to home health care is in October 2002.  With the industry already struggling to meet financial obligations, Langevin is advocating for an immediate cancellation of the October 2002 and all future scheduled cuts and restoration of adequate services for those who rely on the home-based medical care.

 Langevin and his colleagues appealed to House Budget Committee, stating:
“...Home health has become an increasingly important part of our health care system.  The highly skilled and often technically complex care that our home health agencies provide have enabled millions of our most frail and vulnerable older persons to avoid hospitals and nursing homes and stay just where they want to be - in the comfort and security of their own homes”

 In the late 1990’s, home health care became one of the fastest growing programs in total Medicare spending.  Due to the financial strain it placed upon the Medicare budget, steps were taken to slow the rate of spending and streamline the system.  The cuts were included in legislation Congress passed in 1997 but went far further than intended.  

 Langevin and his colleagues added:
“The Medicare home health benefit has already been cut far more deeply and abruptly than any other benefit in the history of the Medicare program.  It is now abundantly clear that the savings goals set for home health in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 have not only been met, but far surpassed.  The most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections show that the post-Balanced Budget Act reductions in home health will exceed $70 billion between fiscal years 1998 and 2002.  This is more than four times the $16 billion that the CBO originally estimated for that time period and is a clear indication that the Medicare home health cutbacks have been far deeper and far-reaching than Congress ever intended.”

Approximately 3,500 home health agencies have been forced to close their doors or stop serving Medicare patients due to the unexpected cuts and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 900,000 fewer home health patients received services in 1999 than in 1997.