Home care funding cuts could drive up SNF occupancy

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Possible massive funding costs in the home healthcare sector could send more residents into institutional long-term care facilities — but that switch could mean higher costs for the Medicare program, experts warn.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed changing the payment unit for home care episodes from 60 days to 30 days for fiscal year 2019, a change that could mean a $950 million cut for the sector's 10,000 providers.

“If these cuts go through, many patients will lose access to critical services in their home and will be forced to move into more expensive nursing homes,” William Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice in Washington, told Bloomberg Law on Tuesday. “This will end up costing Medicare more money in general, so if they're looking to save the program money, this definitely isn't the way.”

The looming cuts have spurred providers, including Kindred Healthcare, to call for legislative relief. Providers have proposed changes to a House bill that would push off the episode changes until 2020. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has also penned a letter to CMS stating the changes are coming “too quickly” for providers to handle.

A final version of the home health rule is expected to be released within the week, Bloomberg reported.