WHEELING - Rep. David McKinley is one of 16 House Republicans signing on to co-sponsor a bill that would reverse cuts in Medicare payments to home health care providers announced last year by the Obama administration.
In November, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced plans to reduce payments to in-home care providers by up to 14 percent over four years, beginning this year, the maximum amount allowed under the Affordable Care Act.
But McKinley, R-Wheeling, believes the cuts will disproportionately affect seniors in West Virginia, a rural state where 17.3 percent of the population is 65 and older, compared to the national average of 14.1 percent.
"Our seniors have come to depend on quality home health care to allow them to recover at home," McKinley said. "Like people in rural areas across the country, West Virginians face many challenges in accessing quality and affordable health care and the president's reduction in funding would make it harder."
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' own figures predict that the cuts will cause 40 percent of home health care providers nationwide to operate at a net loss, according to the bill's original sponsor, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.
In 2012, home health care services cost Medicare about $18.2 billion. But the cost of providing such care in a nursing home setting is much greater, according to a recent report from Genworth Financial.
The median annual cost for 44 hours of home health care service per week in West Virginia is $36,608, compared to $92,528 for a semi-private room in a nursing home, according to the report. The disparity in Ohio is smaller but still significant: $43,472 yearly for a home health aide, compared to $75,942 for a nursing home.
The Republicans' bill, known as the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act of 2014, would reverse the reductions in payments and establish an incentive-based program that would provide the highest level of payments to the best performing providers while reducing payments to those that fail to meet certain standards for quality.
No Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors.
"Home health care provides comfort, familiarity and normalcy for the patients and their families," McKinley said. "This is a commonsense bill that will give West Virginia seniors certainty that they will be able to continue to receive the care on which they depend."
The bill has been referred to two House committees, Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce.