CMS acknowledges homecare's importance

Sunday, July 30, 2006

WASHINGTON - In a positive if mostly symbolic move for the HME industry, CMS stated last week that it will provide $1.75 billion in competitive grants over the next five years to help more Medicaid beneficiaries remain at home.

The grants will "help shift Medicaid from its historical emphasis on institutional long-term care services to a system that offers more choices for seniors and persons with disabilities from all age groups, including home and community-based services," CMS stated.
"With this program, people who need long-term care and prefer to live in their own homes and communities can do so," said Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.
While $1.75 billion is a lot of money, it's dwarfed by the billions of dollars Medicaid spends each year. In 2004, for example, the program spent $8.4 billion just on DME. Nevertheless, the grants "underscore the effectiveness of homecare and that is good news," said Michael Reinemer, AAHomecare's vice president of communications and policy.
"The key for us is linking the rhetoric to policy in Washington," he added. "Let's get this applied to Medicare rather than cutting back and making it harder to stay in business and figure out how to keep more Americans in homecare."
Industry attorney Asela Cuervo calls the grants a good first step in the right direction.
"It is a very good sign," she said. "No one wants to pay $40,000 to put old people in nursing homes. The states are being crushed by that burden."
Some of the discussion surrounding nursing home care and the elderly today often involves the term "aging in place," she said.
"To me that means that there is starting to be a shift toward the recognition that people want to stay in their homes and that as a country we need them to stay in their homes because that is really going to be the most cost-effective place for them," Cuervo said.