After years of working with MassHealth on an update to home health care payment rates, and after learning that the rate increase was set, the Governor pulled the payment boost as part of his recent budget-balancing plan.
The Home Care Alliance delivered a letter to the Governor blasting the decision as part of a “failure to recognize home health care as a vital part of the health care continuum.” The letter noted that rates have not been increased since 2007 and were cut in 2008 for some of the state’s most vulnerable patients that receive home health care services. At that time, payment was cut by 20 percent for services lasting beyond 60 calendar days of care. This, according to the letter, essentially means that “agencies are being reimbursed in 2014 at rates set in 2007 and cut in 2008.” Moreover, the rates were already well below the cost of providing care that brings MassHealth savings by preventing or delaying costlier facility-based care.
Part of the hand-off to incoming Governor-elect Charlie Baker was to slash a state budget deficit of $239 million. From that amount, $68.5 million came from MassHealth services. Although MassHealth home health services were not directly cut, the payment rate being pulled was a blow to agencies and advocates that heard only a week earlier that the rate increase was set for March 1, 2015.
The administration had planned for a $8 million increase, although it was unclear how that funding was going to be implemented.
“Due to recent revenue shortfalls, agencies across state government were required to make difficult choices in order to maintain a balanced budget,” said Health and Human Services spokesman Alec Loftus in a statement to State House News Service. “We took a thoughtful approach to ensure that our most critical programs that help children, families, veterans and our most vulnerable populations are protected.”
As with 2008, the “thoughtful approach” did not include the cost-efficiency home health services bring to the table. Nor does it take into account the money agencies lose every time a nurse goes to a patient’s home to provide care because the cost of providing services far exceed reimbursement.
The Home Care Alliance will continue to make MassHealth payment a policy priority through the state budget process.
Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.