Home Care Patients Could See Aid Cut

In the piney woods of South Georgia, 70-year-old Claude Cox is home receiving daily intravenous antibiotics over the next 10 weeks to combat a bacterial infection in his left lung.

The leukemia patient spent four days instead of many weeks in the hospital thanks to home health care services which send a nurse to his house to help administer the antibiotics. In a cost-efficient move, Medicare pays for home health care to keep patients out of hospitals--a program combining efficiency with compassion.

But if President Obama and Congress have their way, Cox and many of the other 3.2 million Medicare patients who utilize home health care benefits could be cut off next year. Congress may not have adopted a health reform bill yet, but the administration and Congress are already taking steps to ration cost-effective, life-saving programs such as home health care.

Home health care produces better outcomes by keeping patients out of hospitals or nursing homes, allowing them to heal in a more personalized setting.

Bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued an order in mid-August cutting $34 billion from home health care programs for Medicare over the next 10 years.

If these cuts prevail, it could put more than two-thirds of the nation's 9,800 home health care providers out of business by 2011.

Rather than target crooks that rip off the taxpayers to the tune of $80 to $120 billion annually in Medicare and Medicaid programs, the administration and Congress are aiming at the defenseless: homebound patients who need help feeding, dressing, taking their medication or even utilizing the bathroom.

A recent study released by Avalere Health found that early use of home health care after hospitalization for those with chronic diseases saved Medicare $1.71 billion from 2005-06.

Home health care produces better outcomes by keeping patients out of hospitals or nursing homes, allowing them to heal in a more personalized setting, according to the Rand Corp.

Many of the 3.2 million Medicare patients who use home health services will be the first victims of health care rationing as a result of the Obama Healthcare Reform Movement. This gives all of us a glimpse life under a Washington-run health care system.

Unfortunately, it is the homebound, the very sick and disabled who may be the first to pay the price for the politicians hell bent on financing "free" health care for all.

Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at AEI. Nancy Desmond is president and CEO of the Center for Health Transformation.

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