by Andrew Mangione – As if ObamaCare’s botched website, coverage cancellations, and higher costs were not bad enough, the Obama Administration has quietly dealt yet another blow – this time striking millions of the nation’s most vulnerable seniors. Specifically, the Obama Administration has decided to deeply cut funding for the Medicare program’s home health benefit as a way to help pay for ObamaCare.
The Administration made this announcement very quietly, waiting to do so until the very end of the last Friday before Thanksgiving, perhaps thinking that most people would not be looking.
To be sure, the timing of the Administration’s quiet announcement did keep it out of sight – for a while. That ended on December 12th, however, when the Washington Examiner broke the story in an article headlined “ObamaCare forcing 14 percent cut in Medicare’s home health program.” FOX News and the Daily Caller have also picked up this story, so full attention is now being paid to this unprecedented cut – and the harm it will do to frail seniors across America.
As the Examiner’s Richard Pollock wrote, “An estimated 3.5 million poor and ill homebound senior citizens will wake up on New Year’s Day to discover ObamaCare has slashed funding for their home health care program.” He’s right: on January 1st, the Obama Administration will sharply cut Medicare funding for home healthcare services.
Totaling a whopping 14 percent between 2014 and 2017, this cut is the maximum allowable under the ObamaCare law. The Administration had the discretion to cut less, or even to make no cuts at all. But they decided to impose the deepest cut made possible by the Affordable Care Act (shouldn’t we be calling this the “Horrible Care Act”?) legislation. And in doing so, they will shift billions of dollars from Medicare to ObamaCare.
This cut is not only unprecedented in its magnitude – it will have a direct and devastating impact on the millions of ailing seniors who want to stay in their homes and not have to move to a facility.
This year, Medicare home health services were delivered to approximately 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries. According to the federal government’s own data, these seniors are older, poorer and sicker than the Medicare beneficiary population as whole. Many of these seniors also reside in rural communities, where home health care is especially important because other sources of treatment are often located many miles away.
The Medicare home health benefit is also of critical importance to younger Americans. Families across America depend on home health services to help them care for their aging parents. Having a skilled nurse come to their homes to deliver needed treatment not only means that Mom and Dad don’t have to go into a nursing home – it also means their adult daughters and sons can balance caring for their parents with raising a family and earning a living.
In light of its importance to millions of seniors and their families, the Medicare home health sector has been one of the nation’s leading creators of new jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thousands of Americans find employment every month in the home health field. Just as important, these jobs are being created by small businesses, which constitute more than 90 percent of all providers of home health services.
But all that’s about to change.
Hidden on page 117 of the regulation that the Obama Administration quietly released on that Friday evening is a stunning admission: “approximately 40 percent” of all providers of home health services face net losses as a result of this Medicare cut. Put more plainly, 4-in-10 of all the providers on whom homebound seniors depend face the threat of bankruptcy and closure as a result of ObamaCare.
To my knowledge, this is the first time that any regulation has been issued by any Administration with the knowledge that it would put nearly half of the people it impacted out of business. Indeed, this ObamaCare cut to Medicare is so severe that thousands of small businesses may be forced to close, and hundreds of thousands of quality jobs could be lost – directly impacting the millions of homebound seniors who depend on them.
The impact that ObamaCare’s Medicare cut will have on seniors, families and small businesses is widely projected to be severe. What is not yet known, however, is the impact this cut will have on U.S. politics. In 2010, the revelation that ObamaCare would slash Medicare funding so angered senior voters, that they helped give Republicans control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Now that these cuts are being imposed, the Democrats who voted for the Affordable Care Act face the possibility of losing their Senate majority when senior voters return to the polls in November.
Indeed, with Medicare so negatively impacted by ObamaCare, an important question will soon be put to the millions of seniors, families, and providers who care deeply about home health: what answer will they have to ObamaCare’s New Year’s Day surprise?