There is such a thing as serendipity — that unpredictable and uncontrollable turn of events that just happens to work in your favor. Home health got a little serendipity this week.
Just one day after a hearing held by a Senate healthcare subcommittee that by anyone’s critical assessment was a home run for the field, the industry held its annual fly-in. Talk about momentum — and ready-made conversation starters.
When home health providers visited their senators and representatives Wednesday, they could confidently reference the resounding support voiced by the senators for their cause. These elected officials stood against impending Medicare cuts and championed funding to alleviate the workforce shortage, thereby ensuring the continued viability of home care providers.
Providers may have recounted firsthand accounts from the hearing itself, including the testimony of Carrie Edwards, RN, director of home care services at Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings, NE. Her authentic narrative highlighted how her service area had dwindled from encompassing parts of 13 counties to just one.
They also undoubtedly relied on alarming statistics given by William Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, concerning the decline of the home health benefit. Among these:
- In 2011, 3.5 million users of home health services received 36 visits per year. Ten years later, only 3 million people used the home health benefit.
- Since 2011, the number of home health agencies has dropped by over 1,000 nationwide.
- Home health spending is virtually the same as it was in 1997. Only $17 billion annually is spent on home health. That compares with skilled nursing facility spending, which totals $27.2 billion a year, and hospital spending, which is $130 billion a year.
In the face of this shortage, the hearing was advocacy gold for NAHC and the other home care organizations who came to the capital this week for the fly-in. Who could have foreseen such a fortuitous turn of events?
There’s a well-word adage: I’d rather be lucky than good. Today, looking at the near future, with the prospect of millions of dollars in Medicare cuts, I think home health providers might agree with this sentiment.
Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at l[email protected].