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Senior Citizens Forced to Leave Their Homes by Medicare Cuts in Home Health Care
Ed Koch, Bob Weiner want home care alternatives to nursing homes

July 6, 2007 - Former Mayor and Congressman Ed Koch, and former U.S. House Aging Committee Chief of Staff Bob Weiner, have joined forces to urge Congress to restore Medicare funding to home health care that is being cut by the Bush administration.

In an op-ed today in Newsday, "Congress Must Restore Funds for Home Health Care", Koch and Weiner say, "As the health care debate takes off in the presidential campaign and in Congress, let's not ignore the silent sadness of growing numbers of elderly being forced unnecessarily into nursing homes."

They point out, “In the last seven years, while the Medicare budget for nursing home stays has dramatically increased from $13.6 billion to $15.7 billion, home health care has been cut by 25 percent, from $14 billion to $10.5 billion. It is cut further in the Bush administration's proposed fiscal year 2008 budget, which calls for an ‘inflation freeze’ that would slash $410 million in fiscal 2008 and $9.68 billion over five years.

"Many of us have or have had older grandparents, parents, other relative or friends living in nursing homes. In nearly every case, the elderly person did not want to go; many cried over it.

“Home care allows the elderly to maintain their dignity and independence, sleep in their own beds, and stay in the house they have long enjoyed (or in the house of a child or relative) - unless their condition deteriorates to the point where an institution is absolutely necessary."

However, "Home health care doesn't have nearly the lobbying power of big institutions like the nursing home industry and the hospitals, they add."

"In addition to providing a higher quality of life, home health care is far cheaper - now averaging one-fifth the price of nursing homes and a tiny fraction - 3% - of the cost of hospitalization according to federal HHS Medicare statistics."

Koch and Weiner conclude, "Senior citizens should not be forced into nursing homes for lack of alternatives. The new Democratic Congress needs to restore the priority of home health care for senior citizens."

Koch and Weiner, who was Koch's legislative assistant in Congress, say that "national policy has reversed" from "common sense legislation" Koch and Weiner worked on and got passed to give senior citizens alternatives to nursing homes -- health care in people's own homes.