In-home care pay cuts could be devastating

It is difficult to believe President Barack Obama’s administration does not have some ulterior motive in a plan that could affect tens of thousands of West Virginians directly and adversely. Fortunately, a move is afoot in the House of Representatives to stymie the administration.

As we have pointed out many times, a cost-effective approach to taking care of the disabled and senior citizens is in-home care, when that is practical. Such care usually costs substantially less than sending patients to institutions such as nursing homes.

In addition, most people would rather stay in their own homes than be sent to institutions.

When care is provided through government programs, officials are right to consider cost. When in-home care is involved, that also allows them to do what many patients prefer. It is a win-win situation.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services apparently do not see it that way. They are proposing reductions in payments to in-home care providers of as much as 14 percent.

That would force many in-home care providers out of business, of course. The agency itself reportedly estimates the cuts would mean as many as 40 percent of providers would operate at a loss. Businesses don’t do that for long, of course. They simply shut down.

U.S. Reps. David McKinley and Shelley Capito, both R-W.Va., are among the 24 co-sponsors of a bill that would block the cuts.

As McKinley has pointed out, the plan probably would affect West Virginia more adversely than many other states. That is because our state has a substantially higher percentage of people 65 and older.

Hundreds of thousands of Mountain State residents rely on Medicare or Medicaid for health care. If the proposed cuts go through, many could lose access to in-home care. And, taxpayers would have to foot the bill for more expensive institutional care for them.

Members of the House and the U.S. Senate should approve the bill – the SAVE?Medicare Home Health Act of 2014. Then, they should ask why the Obama administration proposed a plan that, if allowed to go into effect, would increase Medicare costs and make life more difficult for many Americans.