Obamacare diverts $22 billion earmarked for Medicare home health care for seniors in order to pay for the costs of its insurance exchange subsidies and expanded Medicaid programs.
“Homebound seniors will have to seek care outside of their homes and the home healthcare sector, an industry with more than half a million employees, mainly women, will be devastated,” according to Andy Mangione, vice president for government relations at the Association of Mature American Citizens.
The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has corroborated Mangione’s estimates. CMS says that some 5,000 home healthcare companies will go out of business by 2017. Women own the majority of these businesses, and most of their more than 500,000 employees—the nurses and other allied health professionals who provide care—are also women.
In addition, Mangione said, it is mainly poor, elderly women “who will be denied access to home healthcare if the cuts are not reversed.”
The average age of Medicare home healthcare beneficiaries is 82 and two-thirds of them live below the federal poverty level. The have chronic illnesses such as heart disease, COPD and diabetes. They live mostly in rural parts of the country where access to alternative care is limited and significantly more expensive.
“They are Medicare’s oldest, sickest and poorest beneficiaries and the majority of them are women. And so, if there is a ‘war on women’ in America they are the most vulnerable victims of that conflict,” Mangione noted.
He said it is “imperative” that the Medicare cuts be quashed and that, as AMAC’s principal contact with lawmakers in D.C., it is a top priority on his agenda.
“H.R.5110, the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act, was recently introduced to rescind these cuts and replace them with common sense accountability for home healthcare agencies, which would increase the quality of care for patients. The House will eventually vote on the budget-neutral bill, perhaps after the November elections or when the next session of Congress begins in January.”
Mangione said that there is growing support for the measure and it is likely to pass in the House. But, its fate in the Senate is uncertain although 51 senators, including 36 Democrats, are on record as supporting a repeal of the cuts.
“Still, they will need to be reminded not to fund Obamacare on the backs of America’s seniors and there is no better time to do that than during the current Congressional election campaigns.