On top of so many challenges, a Medicare cut would be deeply felt 

Those of us who need home care have faced incredible challenges in recent years. A workforce crisis has turned catastrophic. […]

A hand holding a marker with the word Medicare underlined

Those of us who need home care have faced incredible challenges in recent years. A workforce crisis has turned catastrophic. We clients and our service providers cannot find and retain qualified staff as they can leave the field for higher wages elsewhere. 

We cannot find enough staff to fill our shifts, which means sitting at home and not being able to work and otherwise participate in our home communities. Some of us have had to move from our own homes to group homes, or rely on friends and family members. More and more of us who live at-risk cannot find adequate care. This puts us MORE at risk. 

Simply put, care delayed is care denied. 

Inflation has its own ripple effects, adding to the care crisis we are in. Some of us have even faced the closure of our provider home care agencies and have had to look for new service providers. At least three home care agencies in Minnesota have closed recently, according to the Minnesota Home Care Association (MHCA). 

Providers already face rising costs, ranging from personal care supplies to motor vehicle fuel. The mounting inflationary pressures in turn stress everyone’s budgets. This summer we saw prices rise to a four-decade peak. How many of us canceled trips or put food items back on store shelves because of sticker shock? Those cost crunches multiply significantly for home care provider agencies. 

And it’s not like replacing the corner store where you pick up a morning cup of coffee. Good service providers build trusted relationships with home care clients. Our lives are in their hands. Losing those bonds is daunting. 

Now there’s yet another threat. A proposed 7.86 percent Medicare cut to home health services looms on the horizon. The cut is being debated in Congress. It would be a permanent cut if approved and could come on top of an additional $3 billion in cuts Medicare officials are seeking. That massive cut would wipe out more home care providers and would impact the roughly 33,000 Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries who rely on home care. 

Another red flag is the challenge of cases for those referred to home care. MHCA estimates that more than 90 percent of Minnesota’s Medicare home health beneficiaries live with at least three chronic health care conditions. Those are far more complex health care situations than the vast majority of Minnesota Medicare recipients live with. 

We have to say, enough is enough. Why would federal officials make cuts that could divert many of us into nursing homes and out of our home communities? The nursing home options are potentially much more costly. 

The Preserving Access to Home Health Act of 2022 gives hope. It would block the $3 billion in proposed funding takebacks and would delay the 8 percent permanent cut. The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would be prevented from reducing payments until 2026.  

Does that kick the can down the road? Possibly. But it would provide time for a thoughtful look at the issues facing Medicare recipients and home care providers. 

We hope this situation can be addressed. It’s a double-edged sword. As people live longer, their health issues and disabilities become more complex. Home health care and the ability to stay in one’s community is a much more popular option than it used to be. 

Yet we have a workforce situation where people can pick and choose jobs. More and more, people don’t see home care and personal care as a career or as a career gateway. We need home care funding and access to care preserved and not cut as Medicare’s own path forward is charted. 

It’s that time of year 

No, we’re not talking about Christmas. (And yes, the decorations have been in stores for some time already.) 

The Minnesota Legislature convenes January 3, 2023. Disability advocacy groups are already hard at work on legislative agendas and bills for the upcoming sessions. Given the 2022 session’s ending, many of the bills that were held up before passage are likely to be back. 

If you have interest in legislation that impacts your life and the lives of the people you care about, now is the time to get involved. The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) just rolled out an impressive array of asks from its members. That’s a great group to join, as an organization or a an individual. 

Or find the specific advocacy group that best addresses the issues you care about. 

You may not think of yourself as someone who can be a self-advocate. But why not try? Many groups have classes or online guides to provide education and support. 

Self-advocacy can be a good way to venture out of a personal comfort zone. Over the years at Access Press we’ve seen countless people come into their own and blossom as effective self-advocates. Maybe 2023 will be your year to do the same. 

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