Home Health Care agencies and Home Medical Equipment providers help fill the gap left by long term care facilities. As the number of skilled nursing facilities are decreasing or remains stagnant, the increasing elderly population is being served by home health.
The agencies and independent caregivers provide a number of healthcare services such as disease management, wound care, therapies and hospice support. HME suppliers provide home / durable medical equipment and supplies (such as diabetic, incontinence, ostomy, urological, and wound care supplies). Home medical equipment is typically covered by patient’s healthcare insurance, including Medicare (Part B).
According to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans aged 65 and older grew by 900,000 between 2009 and 2010. For the same year, the American Health Care Association reported that the number of nursing facilities in the United States dropped by nine.
An article in the New York Times explains that this odd discrepancy is in part a result of financial pressure on facilities that care for residents who receive Medicare and Medicaid. The other part is a growing consensus among health care professionals that the 24-hour care provided by nursing homes is more than many older patients need.
A combination of community and home-based care is the solution to address this gap. As Jason A. Helgerson, the Medicaid director for New York State says, “If a person can get a service like home health care or Meals on Wheels, they can stay in an apartment and thrive in that environment, and it’s a lower cost to taxpayers.”
Examples of federal government support for this shift are the Community First Choice Option for Medicaid and the Independence at Home Demonstration Program for Medicare.
States that participate in the Community First Choice Option receive a six percent increase in federal Medicaid matching funds for providing community-based attendant services and supports to beneficiaries who would otherwise be confined to a nursing home or other institution.
The Independence at Home Demonstration Program encourages primary care practices to provide home-based care to chronically ill Medicare patients.
People who are chronically ill or who have mobility issues need more than care to remain independent and safe at home. They also need medical equipment like oxygen concentrators, wheelchairs, and infusion pumps in addition to the mobility equipment such as power wheelchairs.
In the recent times, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) has been trying to contain the Medicare spending on HME / DME by resorting to competitive bidding. While the industry alleges that this move is actually killing competition, the officials and federal authorities say that it discipline the industry.