Federal add-on payments through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are integral to those home care agencies operating in rural regions of the country. In Vermont, a growing conglomeration of visiting nurses are working in tandem with the state’s congressional delegation in protesting these cuts.
These “rural add-on payments” are being phased out by 2022. That will essentially eliminate $1.2 million for numerous home health care companies operating in the state. That also means a growing number of aging men and women in Vermont may no longer be able to receive care and support necessary to remain at home.
Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders along with other congressional representatives made a joint statement that said, “vulnerable Vermonters should never be forced to make the extraordinarily difficult decision between moving into a nursing facility or staying at home without much needed care.”
The Valley News (of Vermont) reported in its blog, Vt. Nurses Fight Home Health Care Cuts, written by Mike Faher:
“We are concerned the new payment rule for rural providers will harm their ability to provide these vital services,” the lawmakers said. “We are working closely with the VNAs of Vermont and with the state to work collaboratively to address this issue to ensure that patient care is not affected.”
[Jill Mazza] Olson’s Montpelier-based organization represents nine nonprofit agencies that provide a mix of home health care; hospice or palliative care; and long-term care across the state. The agencies have a long reach, serving all Vermont towns and making about a million home visits every year.
Home health care providers play a significant part in overall health care, not just in Vermont but every other state across the country. Without these caregivers and visiting nurses, aging men and women and even others who are unable to take care of themselves may be forced to depend on nursing home care, which is far more expensive and does not improve quality of life or comfort.
Continued cuts only hamper efforts of these individuals to help people remain where they are most comfortable: at home. It was also noted in the article:
“The latest cuts further that trend: A round of funding and policy changes issued by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services includes the gradual elimination of rural add-on payments as mandated by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
The add-on payments are a 3 percent additional allocation for Medicare-funded home health services in rural areas. Seven of Vermont’s nonprofit visiting nurse agencies receive those payments; Chittenden and Franklin counties don’t qualify.”