Home healthcare costs often lower than post-acute care after hospitalization, analysis finds

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Medicare beneficiaries with chronic health problems are far less likely to be readmitted to the hospital when discharged to their homes than if they receive other post-acute care services, a new analysis finds.

This analysis, commissioned by the Home Health Advocacy Coalition, examined total Medicare Part A spending after initial hospital visits, including costs associated with readmissions, from October 2006-September 2009. The study compared beneficiaries with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or congestive heart failure. The group that went to their homes comprised an estimated 20,426 fewer hospital readmissions when compared to beneficiaries with the same conditions who received other post-acute care services. The lower readmission rate saved Medicare an estimated $670 million in the three-year time frame, according to analysts at Avalere Health.

But analysts also said Medicare Part A spending could have been reduced by $2.07 billion if the beneficiaries who received other post-acute services after the initial hospitalization had used home health instead. Emil Parker, Avalere's director of post-acute and long-term care practices, told McKnight's that for the purpose of this study, post-acute care included skilled nursing facilities, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, hospices and long-term acute care hospitals.

“Our study shows that in this population, provision of home health care is cost-effective and benefits patients by improving the continuity of their care,” Parker said.