Opinion: Home care necessary in healthcare

Steve Greenbaum

According to the Henry T. Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 35 percent of all Michigan Medicare participants have elected Medicare Advantage plans in 2019. A private plan alternative to traditional Medicare, enrollment in Medicare Advantage has more than tripled nationwide since 2005, from approximately 6 million to 20 million beneficiaries. And here’s one recent development that may continue to support this upward trend.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is redefining what Medicare Advantage Plans can offer as supplemental benefits to enrollees. And for the first time, this includes several services related to non-medical home care, meaning that home care is officially being recognized as a legitimate component of the continuum of care. This is of special importance to companies like ComForCare, headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, and the rapidly expanding aging population across the U.S. that our locations want to serve.

Greenbaum writes: "For the first time, home care is officially being recognized as a legitimate component of the continuum of care."

In Detroit, there are currently no Medicare Advantage insurers offering home care as an additional benefit for 2019. And for 2020, only about 7 percent of Medicare Advantage members will have access to any kind of new supplemental benefits. But it’s a very important start – a test that may prove incredibly beneficial and gain in momentum as more people age and desire to do so in their own homes.

While we wait for more information to come, there are a couple of things we do know. Private pay, veterans care, long-term care insurance and workers’ compensation are the existing sources of revenue that cover home care needs and services. However, current coverage and payer sources are not nearly enough to address the size and growing needs of today’s aging population.

According to caregiver.org, by 2050, the number of Americans in need of long-term care services is expected to double from the 13 million using services in 2000, to 27 million people. Medicare Advantage will be a critical introduction and, depending on coverage levels and reimbursements, it is expected to not only increase the quality of life and care for a growing population that is aging in place, but may also provide critical data in the years ahead for non-medical home care that effectively decreases hospital readmission rates and emergency department visits for seniors.

This may be the start of a monumental shift in how we think of caring for an aging population beyond medical needs that are reactive in addressing issues that have already occurred. This is a proactive and preventative approach to health and wellness for a segment of our population that will only continue to increase in rapid fashion.

The “silver tsunami” is here, and it’s critical that we, as a nation, look for and support different programs to serve this growing demographic and allow those who want to age in place be able to get the care they need in order to do so.

Steve Greenbaum is CEO of ComForCare and At Your Side Home Care, premier providers of home care, based in Bloomfield Hills, and a board member for the Home Care Association of America.