California’s seniors need expanded health care options

A nurse confers with a patient at the patient's home. (Photo: SeventyFour, via Shutterstock)

California has attracted residents for centuries, and for good reason.

Since the Gold Rush in the mid-19th century, millions of people have gravitated to the opportunities offered across our great state. Whether it be chasing dreams of fame in Hollywood, following the technology development in Silicon Valley, or spending time in our unique climate, Americans have looked to us to lead.

The same is true when it comes to health care — especially as California’s elderly population is set to explode. Meeting the challenges of a growing population of older adults—particularly a surge of seniors aged 85 or older—will require expanding access to care.

If given the choice, 86% of adults say they would prefer to receive post- hospital care in their home.

As California continues to make progress toward a transformative health care system, it is important that we prioritize the needs of older patients. Since many patients choose to age in place, modernizing the Medicare home health benefit must be part of the conversation.

Home health care allows older adults who may be recovering from injury, a chronic condition, or illness to heal in a comfortable, safe environment near friends and loved ones. For older adults who are eligible for home health, years of research and personal anecdotes have shown the benefits of receiving treatments at home, including increased independence, more comfort and relief, and greater convenience for both patients and family caregivers. If given the choice, 86% of adults say they would prefer to receive post- hospital care in their home instead of transferring to a nursing home.

With more the 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the US, it is important that we prioritize health services for the elderly population. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown both the value of home health, as well as the limitations of the current delivery system, which was established decades ago. Now is the right time to modernize the Medicare home health benefit so that seniors can enjoy greater choice and flexibility over their own care.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress has introduced a bill to expand home-based health care options for seniors.

The bill is called the Choose Home Care Act (S. 2562/H.R. 5514) and it would offer Medicare beneficiaries an alternative to skilled nursing facilities in the form of increased home health care services for an additional 30 days.

This would empower elderly individuals to receive safe and high-quality care in the convenience of their home with the support of their trusted medical teams and caregivers. It would also support several critical services not available today under the benefit including transportation services, meal preparation, therapy, personal care delivery, and remote monitorization for the extended 30 days.

Additionally, the legislation is cost-effective, ensuring the Medicare program operates more efficiently. If enacted, the bill will save taxpayers as much as $247 million annually and decrease Medicare program costs by up to $4.8 billion over a span of 10 years. This bill would also address health disparities which continue to plague underserved communities across California. Choose Home represents a step toward optimizing care delivery and enabling more seniors to heal in the safety of their homes.

Choose Home is transformative and deserves bipartisan support in both houses of Congress.

Already, data indicates that four in five adults agree that expanding home care options should be a high priority for government officials.

While more than 50 Senators and Representatives of both parties have co-sponsored the Choose Home Care Act, we urge California’s congressional delegation to also co-sponsor and support this dynamic bill for their senior constituents and their families.

Editor’s Note: Dean Chalios is president & CEO of the California Association for Health Services at Home.

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