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New Medicare Bill

Recently, Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR) and Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) along with 21 representatives introduced legislation that would facilitate easier and timelier access to home health services under Medicare.

The bill, entitled “Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act of 2013” would allow physician assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe home health services for Medicare beneficiaries.  Currently, while these types of practitioners are generally able to order nursing home care and write prescription medication for Medicare patients, they are not able to order home health care.

“We have a responsibility to provide America’s seniors with high quality, cost effective health care.  A key part of that is ensuring they have timely access to health care services in the privacy, comfort and security of their own homes.  These highly-skilled health care professionals play a central role in the delivery of primary care, particularly in medically under served areas and are crucial to coordinating team-based care,” said Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA).

Many older adults see PAs and NPs as their primary care physician and are often required to make an extra office visit with a doctor to get the in-home care they need.  As a result, many choose not to make the extra trip which leads to a lack of care.

According to Val Halamandaris, President of NAHC, “Studies have shown that the expanded use of these professionals can result in dramatic decreases in expensive hospitalizations and nursing home stays.  We appreciate the outstanding leadership [Reps. Walden and Schwartz] have shown in helping make home and community based services more readily available to our nation’s elderly population and those with disabilities.”

In addition to increasing the accessibility of in-home health care to the nation’s senior citizens and others, this legislation could produce significant savings for Medicare.  In a 2011 study commissioned by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), it was estimated that in a five year period, Medicare savings would total around $91.9 million.  Savings would result from decreased administrative burden and costs for home health agencies as well as decreased administrative burden on physicians.