Dr. Abraham, colleagues save Medicare ‘house calls’ – Monroe News Star

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Fifth District U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, occasionally flies his Cirrus SR 20 airplane to and from Washington, D.C., rather than risk disruption of commercial flights.
Greg Hilburn/USA Today Network

Elderly patients who access home health care services, the modern version of house calls, were near eviction before Louisiana Congressman Ralph Abraham and others convinced Medicare to scuttle the plan this week.

Abraham, R-Alto, who is a doctor, and Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., led a bipartisan letter signed by 174 members asking The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reverse course, which it did Wednesday.

Other Louisiana members signing the letter included Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, and U.S. Reps. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, Mike Johnson, R-Shreveport,  and Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre.

The new rule would have cut Medicare reimbursement rates in 2019 by almost $1 billion and cut the time a patient could access the services from 60 days to 30.

“Home health is so critical to the overall equation of the best ways to deliver health care for the elderly, people with disabilities and other home-bound patients, particularly those who live in rural areas,” Abraham said.

“It keeps patients out of hospitals and allows them to be with their families when they need them most,” he said.

The $1 billion would have been funneled out of home health services and to hospitals instead, which Abraham said isn’t the most effective method of treatment for these patients.

Abraham said the new rule would have put many home health providers out of business.

“Home health providers simply could not continue to operate under the dramatic changes to reimbursement rates contained in the proposed rule, and I thank the administration for preventing the rule from taking effect,” he said.

Abraham said home health funding from Medicare has already been reduced by 42 percent since 2009 before the $1 billion.

Sewell’s district is similar to Abraham’s, mostly rural and poor.

“Home health providers are a lifeline for constituents in my district, including seniors, disabled individuals and those with limited mobility,” she said in a statement. “These services are critical in saving long-term hospital costs, keeping families together and promoting dignity and independence for our seniors.”

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1

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