To start, President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 into law to stave off the fiscal cliff, which left many home health organizations relatively unchanged for another year. Here are the highlights affecting Home Health and Hospice:
• There are no cuts to Medicare home health or hospice care benefits, payments, or payment rates
• Home Health will not see Medicaid cuts
• Protection against the Medicare outpatient therapy cap is in effect through the end of the year (2013)
Finally, the Senate bill created a Long Term Care Commission that will be in charge of developing a plan to meet the needs of the aging population. The commission will be a group of 15 members appointed by Mr. Obama, as well as other congressional leaders.
This is good news to start off the New Year for home health and hospice facilities, however community pharmacists may have gotten the rotten end of the deal. A provision in the bill stated that there will be a competitive bidding structure for diabetes test strips (which could save the Medicare program upwards of $600 million). This could seriously affect the industry and cause community pharmacists to stop providing diabetes test supplies to Medicare beneficiaries. John Coster, of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), stated his concern, "NCPA has repeatedly outlined to Congress and Medicare officials the shortcomings in such an approach. Round one of the competitive bid program has validated NCPA’s concerns, including waste in mail order and patients’ strong preference for a face-to-face health care experience with a local provider."
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