Bipartisan senators decry reform's home healthcare cuts

Hundreds of practitioners are in town to press their agenda. Chief among their talking points are the industry's cost savings: The industry says it saves Medicaid billions of dollars a year, with the average home care visit in 2009 costing $135 per day versus $1,500 for the average hospital visit.

The advocates decry the healthcare reform law's $39.7 billion in Medicare cuts to home health. They're also worried about proposals by Medicare advisers to impose even greater cuts and to impose co-pays of up to $150 for many home care patients.

On the flip side, the law also increases Medicaid spending for home care services by $13 billion through 2019.

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Among the industry's top legislative priorities: 

• Ensure that home care and hospice are an integral part of healthcare reform's changes to the healthcare system;

• Defeat the proposed co-pays;

• Increase Medicare payments;

• Repeal or reform the healthcare reform law's requirement that a patient meet face-to-face with the physician who certifies the need for home health services or hospice care; and

• Establish home care and hospice benefits as required benefits under Medicaid.

Lawmakers have already introduced legislation that would achieve some of those goals. Sens. Wyden, Collins and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) have a bill to allow nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to authorize home health plans of care, instead of waiting for a physician to sign off. Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSchumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff MORE (R-S.D.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (D-Minn.) want Medicare to support the use of telehome care technologies so people can get the care they need directly at home.