In the final Home Health Prospective Payment System (HHPPS) rule for CY 2014 issued in November 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cut the Medicare home health benefit by 3.5% each year, amounting to a 14% cut over the next four years (2014-2017). Such massive cuts will have devastating consequences and endanger access to clinically advanced, cost-effective home healthcare that is necessary for homebound patients.

CMS itself admitted that this cut would cause 40% of providers to suffer net losses by 2017. According to Avalere Health, nearly 1.5 million seniors could lose access to home health services and as many as 465,000 home health jobs could be eliminated as a result of these cuts.

The proposed 2016 Home Health Prospective Payment System rule includes the third year of these four-year phased rebasing cuts. If finalized, this rule would also cut an additional $350 million from payments to home health agencies while establishing a value-based reimbursement model.

Building a payment system that rewards value is an important step forward, but care must be taken that cuts don’t undermine the ability of small, rural and other at-risk agencies from being able to deliver the high-value care on which 3.5 million seniors and disabled Americans depend.

We must protect access to home healthcare for America’s vulnerable seniors.