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Letter to the Honorable Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, The Honorable Max Baucus Chairman, Senate Finance Committee, The Honorable Christopher J. Dodd Chairman Senate Banking Committee, The Honorable Tom Harkin Chairman Senate HELP Committee

Letter to the Honorable Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, The Honorable Max Baucus Chairman, Senate Finance Committee, The Honorable Christopher J. Dodd Chairman Senate Banking Committee, The Honorable Tom Harkin Chairman Senate HELP Committee

Kerry Fights for Home Health Services in Final Health Care Bill

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Finance Committee, along with thirty-one bipartisan colleagues, wrote Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Chairmen Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) requesting that home health care services be protected in the final health reform bill.

"Some of our most vulnerable Americans rely on home health services," said the senators. "The Senate bill is a common sense approach that maintains necessary delivery reforms while preserving access to health care for homebound Medicare beneficiaries. We'd be better served by the home health provisions in the Senate bill than the excessive home health reductions in the House bill. We look forward to working with you to ensure that health reform legislation protects access to home health services for our country's aging population."

In December 2009, the Senate passed Kerry's amendment guaranteeing home health benefits for seniors by a vote of 96-0. The full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Max Baucus
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Christopher J. Dodd
Chairman Senate Banking Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Tom Harkin
Chairman Senate HELP Committee
Untied States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators Reid, Baucus, Dodd, and Harkin:

As you work to finalize health care reform legislation, we urge you to continue to protect access to home health services by ensuring that the more fair and equitable Senate provisions are adopted in the final bill.

Currently, over 3 million Medicare beneficiaries receive home health services across the country--including those with acute illnesses and injuries and those afflicted with numerous chronic conditions.

We are concerned that the nearly $55 billion reduction in home health payments in the House bill represents a disproportionate sacrifice for the home health community. Both the National Association for Home Care & Hospice and the Visiting Nurse Associations of America project that the House bill would result in more than two-thirds of the nation's home health agencies being paid less than the cost of care by 2011. This level of reduction to home health payments would negatively affect access to care in the home setting.

We believe home health services contribute to our national goal of providing quality care while reducing health care costs. Home health providers fulfill a critical role in our nation's health care delivery system. Americans strongly prefer to stay at home with their families rather than enter an institutionalized setting. A recent article by Robert Pear in the New York Times provides an analysis of the home health reductions in the House bill and highlights many of our concerns about the negative potential impact of the House's approach to both home health patients and providers.

We understand that every health care industry is being asked to perform in a more cost-effective manner, including the home health industry. The Senate-passed bill includes a significant and responsible level of home health reductions that will ensure access to medically needed home health services for Medicare beneficiaries. The Senate bill targets fraud and abuse in the home health industry and spreads the payment reductions over a longer period of time to allow providers to adjust to payment changes. The Senate bill also includes additional funding for vulnerable safety net providers who provide care for chronically ill, low-income or underserved Medicare beneficiaries.

The individuals who rely on home health services are among the most vulnerable in our country. Home health patients average nearly 80 years of age and often have multiple chronic conditions. The Senate bill represents a common sense approach that maintains necessary delivery reforms while preserving access to health care for homebound Medicare beneficiaries. We believe the nation would be better served by the home health provisions in the Senate bill than the excessive home health reductions in the House bill.

Thank you for all of your work on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We look forward to working with you to ensure that health reform legislation protects access to home health services for our country's aging population.

Sincerely,

Senator John Kerry
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Paul Kirk
Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Susan Collins
Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Tim Johnson
Senator Robert Casey
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Mary Landrieu
Senator Russ Feingold
Senator Ben Cardin
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Blanche Lincoln
Senator Michael Bennet
Senator Arlen Specter
Senator Mark Warner
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Senator Ben Nelson
Senator Robert Menendez
Senator Chuck Schumer
Senator Daniel Akaka
Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Frank Lautenberg
Senator Jeff Merkley
Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Bill Nelson
Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Herb Kohl
Senator Claire McCaskill


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