February 27 2014

ObamaCare: Pushing Granny Out Of Her House

Charlotte Hays

One of the great desires of many older people is to remain in their homes. ObamaCare just made that more difficult.

Many older people have been able to remain at home only because of home health care services, which, if certified by Medicare, can provide financial help with intermittent nursing, physical therapy, and certain personal and housekeeping help.

But HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has quietly reduced the maximum amount of what can be paid for home health care services.

Jim Geraghty writes in his Morning Jolt:

Sebelius cut the maximum permitted by law, 3.5 percent, and declared HHS would do the same for the next three years.

As [Fox News’ Jim] Angle's report: noted, "The cuts were deep enough that officials offered a damaging prediction of the impact saying, it was estimated that approximately 40 percent of providers would have negative margins."

"Negative margins" is another term for losing money. And businesses that lose money either go kaput or lay off workers. Forty percent of the firms in the industry adds up to roughly a half-million jobs. That doesn't mean that 500,000 home-health-care workers will be fired tomorrow, but it does mean that they're at serious risk for layoffs in the next three years.

So we're talking about a massive job-killer in a field dedicated to treating the health problems of the elderly.

IBIS World recently reported that the home health care industry was “quickly becoming one of the fastest healthcare industries in the United States.” Sebelius’ cut will alter that trajectory. So Sebelius has done two things at once: put Granny into a nursing home and stopped a growth industry from growing.

Even if you are concerned that the government has intruded too much into our private lives, relieving families of perhaps too much responsibility for their kin, Sebelius’ doing this to the old and frail, many of whom are alone in the world, will trouble you.

Geraghty writes:

So what's the administration's angle here? They never met a dollar they didn't want to spend, particularly in entitlements, so why are they suddenly putting the screws to the home-health-care industry, of all professions? Is it that the financial forecasts of Obamacare have been so wildly overoptimistic and unrealistic that they feel they've got to make a big-time cut somewhere to prevent their "bending the cost curve down" promise from becoming an even bigger joke? Or does the administration have something ideological against home health care? Is it that by having the health-care provider coming to a person's house, there's not enough of a role for the government to intervene, manage, and meddle?

And why does Paul Ryan get ads depicting him throwing Granny off the cliff when Kathleen Sebelius really is cutting funding for care for the elderly right now?

Ms. Sebelius is not only making it harder to remain at home for many elderly patients, she may hamper the ministry of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who take care of the dying elderly.

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