Home Care Impacted by Governor’s Budget Cuts

With a new Governor coming into office in January and a $329 million budget shortfall, the Patrick Administration was forced to make reductions to close the deficit.

A large chunk of those cuts came at the expense of MassHealth, which makes up slightly more than half of the state’s $36.5 billion fiscal year 2015 budget. MassHealth officials contacted the Home Care Alliance to report that $68.5 million in reductions had to come from MassHealth alone and that a rate increase for home health agencies is no longer on the table for FY15.

The Home Care Alliance had seen hints that there finally would be a review of MassHealth home health care rates after years of being passed over. Rates were frozen in 2007 and one of the Patrick Administration’s first cuts were from home health services past 60 calendar days of care. The rate inexplicably dropped by 20 percent for patients who require longer-term home health care and that cut has not been revisited.

Also cut was $1.52 million from the Elder Affairs’ “Home Care Purchased Services” line item that will go into effect on December 1st at which time the waiting list for Aging Service Access Point (ASAP) services could go back into effect. Officials from Elder Affairs indicated the lowest priority level would be the only one impacted, which preserves those in the greatest need for care.

The bright spot is that the Home Care Alliance’s efforts to gain MassHealth reimbursement for telehealth provided by home health agencies is not impacted and plans to implement rates and guidelines is going on as planned. Moreover, home health rates are, more or less, remaining status quo and are not being reduced further. Nursing Home Supplemental Rates, for example, were slashed by $9.1 million.

A rate review for home health services remains a top priority and the HCA will continue to work with the legislature and MassHealth on improving payment.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

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