NAHC Calls on Agencies to Act, Oppose Cuts

The Alliance urges it’s members to get involved in federal advocacy given a recent announcement in the NAHC Report. The US House of Representatives has recently released a draft health care reform bill that would cut the Medicare home health benefit by $51 billion over 10 years. Read the pared down and edited except from NAHC Report below to see what you can do.

The message to bring to lawmakers is, “I support the goal of health care for all. However, the goal should not come at the expense of frail elderly and disabled homebound Medicare beneficiaries receiving home health services. Home health services preserve independence, keep families together, and save Medicare dollars by keeping Medicare beneficiaries out of hospitals and nursing homes. Please oppose the proposal to cut home health care.”

A. Calling Members of Congress. You can communicate your concerns to their staff in local or Washington, D.C. offices by phone. When calling, ask the receptionist to connect you with the staffer who handles Medicare issues. To find out the name of your representative, click here.

When talking with the health staffers for your representatives in the House, ask that they urge House leaders to reject home health cuts in health care reform legislation. Also, please invite them to join the House Home Health Caucus.

When speaking with your legislators and their staffs, you may find the following NAHC talking points helpful:

Ensure Adequate and Appropriate Payment for Medicare Home Health Services.

B. Writing Members of Congress. NAHC suggests faxing or emailing letters to members of Congress to allow the message to get through sooner by avoiding the screening delays that can hamper postal mail delivery. You may easily and effectively email your legislators or obtain their fax numbers using the NAHC Legislative Action Network (LAN), which allows users to send either an email prepared by NAHC or compose/adjust the message personally.

Using the NAHC LAN is easy! Sending messages takes just a few clicks. Enter the required information and then click the “Edit/Send Emails” button under the “Send Emails” paragraph to the right, and a letter will be generated. We encourage you to personalize the sample email with your own experience and the impact the proposed cuts would have on your agency and the beneficiaries you serve. To send an email through the NAHC or Home Care Alliance LAN asking that your representative and senators reject home health cuts, click here (See “Federal or National Issues”).

C. Visiting with Members of Congress Back Home. Over the congressional 4th of July recess (June 26-July 6, 2009), many members of Congress will be campaigning in their home districts. You may arrange to visit with them through their local offices. An effective idea is to invite your legislators to accompany representatives of your agency on a home visit as a compelling way to ensure members of Congress are informed about the benefits of home care and hospice (NAHC Report, April 13, 2005). Taking senators and representatives out on home visits has proven an excellent way to get the point across on key home care issues.

Home care advocates should attend legislators’ public appearances over the 4th of July recess for a chance to speak up about the importance of home care issues. Helpful when planning such a contact or visit, many legislators now list their schedules on their websites, or this information can be obtained by calling the member’s district office and requesting an itinerary.

D. Letters to the Editor and Op-Ed Pieces. Letters to the editor usually must be written in response to an article that has run in a publication’s recent issues, such as a newspaper’s issues in a given week. Articles covering Medicare or perhaps even broader health care issues could provide an opportunity for a letter. Even if home health is not mentioned specifically, a letter to the editor can provide additional information that was not part of the article in discussion.

Op-ed columns are brief opinion pieces typically published opposite the editorial page in newspapers. Typically about 600-800 words long, these columns allow the newspaper’s readers to present a particular concept or thought in more depth than is possible with a shorter “letter to the editor.” Studying the style of a newspaper’s previously published op-eds will help provide a sense of the format and approach most likely to appeal to the editor who selects them for publication.

E. Get Other Like-Minded Individuals Involved. Community or religious-based groups that represent or serve senior communities (e.g., Catholic Charities, Meals-on-Wheels, and local AARP chapters) can often be enlisted as advocates to support these important home health issues. Try to meet with community groups to explain the issue and how it will affect their clients or members (if a face-to-face meeting is too difficult to arrange, try emailing or holding a conference call). Give the group background information and support. Talking points, tools, and materials can be found on the NAHC LAN and at the website.

Urge partner organizations to have their staffs write, call, or email their members of Congress and enlist the communities they serve/represent to do so as well. Keep partner groups “in the loop” by updating them on how lobbying efforts are having an effect.

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