Bravo, Barack, for telling the world

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It’s not hard to be angry these days. Pick up a newspaper and read about the latest bailout scandal. Outrageous bonuses, anyone? Take a blood pressure pill if you’re still opening your 401k statements.

I’m writing this after reading the March issue of the AARP Bulletin and, yes, I’m P.O.-ed. It has nothing to do with the quality of the publication, which is excellent, but everything to do with the stories contained within. For years, I’ve thought that the concept of staying in one’s home with the help of home medical equipment and services made so much sense that no one could possibly be against it - except every bureaucrat who wants to achieve scorable savings in yet another attempt to “fix” health care.

The AARP Bulletin’s editor’s column focuses on the new president’s pledge to reform health care. It notes that Barack Obama had intimate experience with the system: As his mother lay dying of cancer, she was arguing with insurance companies about coverage. His beloved grandmother was able to stay in her Honolulu apartment with some “modest help … that cost the system much less than if she’d gone into a long-term care facility.” Those are the president’s words.

Bravo, Barack, for telling the world what we’ve known all along: Home care is part of the answer to intelligent healthcare reform.

Turn the page and read a horrifying story about the super-resistant infections that kill 90,000 Americans annually. The take-away: “Get the hell out of that hospital bed and go home ASAP.” A variety of therapies are available at home now, and they cost a whole lot less there. I’m also betting that the chances of contracting MRSA or clostridium difficile decrease exponentially when sleeping in one’s own bed and using one’s own bathroom.

Keep reading and grab a box of tissues for “Oh, Lord, Don’t Put Me in a Nursing Home,” a heart-wrenching story, complete with personal anecdotes, about the effects of cuts to Medicaid and elder care programs across the U.S. as cash-strapped states slash human services budgets.

Not surprisingly, AARP research reveals that nine out of 10 older Americans prefer their own homes to nursing facilities. “Florida’s Community Care for the Elderly, for example, spends about $5,000 a year to help one older person remain in her home; more extensive state Medicaid home services cost $8,000 per person, and the average cost of a Florida nursing home is $65,000,” writes author Barbara Basler.

Forgive the cliché, but somebody needs to do the math.

The healthcare system is broken, and it needs to be fixed. Congress should read the AARP Bulletin and see if its members come to the same conclusion I did: People want to live in their homes as long as possible. Home medical equipment, services and programs are a large part of the solution. So is the nascent home modifications market.

We’re cost-efficient, we allow people to be as well as they can be considering their condition, and they can live happily in their homes. What part of that concept doesn’t make sense?

Carolyn Cole is vice president-corporate communications for VGM Group, Inc.