Home Care and Hospice are a “Critical Lynchpin in Our Health Care System”
United States Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), a member of the Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid, spoke at the National Association for Home Care & Hospice’s (NAHC) 2016 March on Washington Conference Senate Breakfast. Sen. Stabenow also spoke at last year’s Senate Breakfast regarding her efforts to roll-back rebasing and prevent further cuts to home care and hospice. Sen. Stabenow is a home care and hospice champion who has demonstrated her commitment to fighting against proposals to cut Medicare and Medicaid. Before she spoke, NAHC President Val J. Halamandaris recalled her efforts in 1998, “when home care was getting hammered,” to join him in organizing a press conference and petition in support of home care. “She is an activist in the extreme,” Halamandaris said.
Introducing Sen. Stabenow was Ms. Carolyn Flietstra, Executive VP of Home & Community Services, Holland Home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ms. Flietstra highlighted Sen. Stabenow’s efforts on “legislation to combat Alzheimer’s disease and also to support those caring for individuals with this devastating disease.” Ms. Flietstra said, Sen. Stabenow “sought to preserve and expand Medicare and ensure access to health care for all Americans. She has led the effort to oppose home health copays and obtain relief from home health rebasing cuts… In Michigan, Sen. Stabenow is well known for her willingness to meet personally with her constituents and fight for our concerns.”
In recalling her childhood, Sen. Stabenow said her mother was a nurse and so she grew up around health care. At a young age, she came to understand the importance of health care, including home care and hospice. “It has been a passion all of my life,” she said. “It’s essential what you do. It brings quality of care and dignity to people when they need it the most… The most important thing is what happens in terms of quality of life for people. It’s also true that it’s a smart, cost-effective way to provide health care, and obviously that becomes the very important point in the climate that we are in.”
Sen. Stabenow noted her support for the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act (S. 578), which would allow Nurse Practitioners and other professionals to sign home health care plans under Medicare. “We need to get that done,” she said.
She also noted her devotion to continuing “to fight against home health copays.” While the fight has been going on for years, she added that she will continue fighting “forever” if that is what it takes. She further expressed support for “reforming the way CMS applies the face-to-face requirement… patients should not be denied claims just because physicians didn’t fill out all of the paperwork.”
In addition, she expressed opposition to prior authorization for home health. “I agree with you that prior authorization for home health is not effective, unless you are trying to create confusion, then it’s very effective,” she said.
The bottom line, she said, is “it’s very important that you are here… that families you represent are heard; that patients are heard; that community members are heard.”
In concluding he remarks, Sen. Stabenow said, “We need people who are directly affected to be speaking out about their stories. It’s harder to cut back on services when there are real people talking about real stories in their families. I encourage you to be aggressive, to be strong, to articulate about a critical lynchpin in our health care system that is home care and hospice. Home care and hospice are critical for us if we’re truly going to give families the support that they need.”