Members of 106th Congress speak out for home care issues

By MEREDITH BONNER
HHBR Editor

WASHINGTON – Attendees at the National Association for Home Care’s (NAHC; Washington) National Policy Conference heard some words of encouragement from members of Congress last week.

Legislators who have played key roles in fighting to keep the home care industry strong despite the hardships it has undergone told members of the home care arena they intend to keep the fight going this year, after a session last year that they said produced a building block for home care legislation.

"Our goal is to secure quality care for our seniors," said Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK). "The best care is in the home, not in a facility. If Congress ignores what’s about to happen in healthcare, we will have ignored those who depend on us the most."

But legislators told attendees that Congress can’t do it alone. Congress needs the help of home care providers and their patients, the members said. "I think the visits people have made (to their Congressmen) . . . and the phone calls have made a difference," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), adding that this puts pressure on Congress.

But McGovern said the changes that have taken place in the industry are "still a crisis." McGovern warned that unless there is a full court press to make something happen, Congress will not do anything. "The inclination of this Congress is to try to get away with not doing anything," he said.

McGovern also expressed his disagreement with the proposed 10% copay for home healthcare Medicare beneficiaries. "I think it is a bad idea," he said. "And bad ideas become law if we don’t fight them."

Rep. Robert Weygand (D-RI) agreed with McGovern, saying, "Our greatest opponents are some of those in highest power."

Weygand added that some of the most efficient agencies were the ones who were hurt the most.

Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO), Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), Rep. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Rep. Van Hilleary (R-TN) also spoke at the NAHC-sponsored conference.