Annual Medicare Payment Limits for Home Health – Even Worse Than Co-Pays for Beneficiaries

The Center for Medicare Advocacy has represented Medicare beneficiaries since 1986. As one of the few advocacy organizations in the nation solely serving Medicare beneficiaries, we strongly oppose home health episodic payment caps or any other such defined payment limits. The counterpart to this notion, caps on outpatient therapy, has created significant barriers to necessary care for thousands of our clients with long-term and chronic conditions. We have no doubt that episode caps would be harmful to some of those in greatest need of home care. Thus, we are adamantly opposed to such limits in the home health context.

The Center has long opposed Medicare home health co-payments, and continues to do so.  Like caps, co-payments will limit access to in-home care for those most in need of these services.  However, we are increasingly concerned about proposals to introduce home health payment limits. There is no question that home health payment limits would be disproportionately harmful for people with conditions such as traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, MS, and other such illnesses and disabilities. Without the possibility for ongoing home health care, these individuals may well need costly nursing home or hospital care.

For example:

  • Our client, Mrs. Berkowitz, who is 81 years old and receives skilled physical therapy and home health aide services for her Multiple Sclerosis and related health needs, will require a nursing home if payment caps are instituted for Medicare home health.

Payment caps contradict and undermine growing efforts to promote better care, at lower costs, by encouraging and investing in home and community-based services. Payment caps would also undermine the settlement just arrived at with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the national class action law suit, Jimmo vs. Sebelius. The Jimmo Settlement makes it clear that Medicare coverage is available for home health patients who need skilled nursing or therapy to maintain or slow deterioration of their conditions.  Jimmo holds the promise of continuing care at home for people with long-term conditions who would otherwise often need more intense and expensive institutional care. Medicare home health payment caps, however, would create a barrier to this care and provide a disincentive to home health agencies to offer care to this particularly vulnerable population.