Medicare to look at diverting resources to day care

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Medicare plans to start a test program that could reveal whether greater funding of adult day-care programs could lead to lower overall program expenditures. The three-year pilot program may reduce the number of people who spend time in hospitals and nursing homes.

Up to 15,000 Medicare beneficiaries who are recovering from an illness that calls for care from a visiting nurse will take part in the day care pilot program. There are about 3,400 adult day-care facilities in the country, with more than 60% providing some sort of health service, according to a Wake Forest University study. Medicare currently does not pay for day care.

Under the program, which is set to start early next year, home health agencies that provide visiting nurses would get Medicare funding to either use on their own adult day care centers or to contract with other centers. Adding nurses or services to day care centers could lead to quicker recoveries, averting the need for more costly, institutionalized care, some experts believe.

In February, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aged (AAHSA), the nation's second-largest nursing home association, and the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA) announced a joint pact to provide more research and advocacy to the adult day care community. NADSA leaders moved into AAHSA's national headquarters in Washington as part of the deal.