U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., rallied support Wednesday for legislation designed to prevent cuts to Medicare benefits for home health care.

McKinley and a group of supporters gathered at the Judge Black Annex in downtown Parkersburg to promote “Save Medicare Home Health Act” which seeks to restore $20 billion in funding to home health care agencies. McKinley said a plan by President Barack Obama would cut Medicare by 14 percent over the next four years, primarily from home health benefits.

Save Home Health is “intended to replace the devastating reduction we are facing now,” McKinley said. “It has a reaching impact on all of us across our society.”

The reduction is a cost-saving measure in the President’s Affordable Care Act, but McKinley said savings should be achieved through promoting efficiencies and reducing waste rather than by eliminating a program which has been shown to be less costly than being admitted to a hospital.

McKinley called the move to remove Medicare funding “purely an assault on seniors and rural America,” saying statistically the states hit hardest by the loss of funding are those with more rural populations which are more likely to turn to home health care for assistance.

Officials said the cuts are predicted to cost West Virginia thousands of jobs as home health care agencies close or reduce services and as seniors are no longer able to afford those services. McKinley said nationally it could cost the workforce half a million jobs.

Gabriella Olson, a doctor in Parkersburg, said she has seen firsthand the benefits of home health care, which allows patients to remain in their homes and helps them develop a relationship with caregivers.

“If more seniors received home health when clinically appropriate, we would undoubtedly see better health care outcomes, fewer hospitalizations, and in the end lower health care spending,” she said.

Parkersburg resident Tina Rolston spoke of her personal experience with home health care after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.

“I’m glad the doctors are there, but most of all I’m glad for the nurses who came to help, to give her the encouragement every day to go forward,” Rolston said. “My mother’s health care saga is not over, but she is still with me today, and as we progress down the road, home health is what I want to always be there for her.”

For more information on the Medicare cuts and the Save Home Health initiative, visit savehomehealth.org.

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