Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., introduced legislation Tuesday that he said is designed to protect access to home health care services for seniors in Oregon and nationwide from deep cuts proposed by the Obama administration.

Walden said his “Securing Access Via Excellence for (SAVE) Medicare Home Health Act” will stop the Obama Administration’s proposed 14 percent payment cut to home health care providers.

Instead, he said, it will put into place smart reforms that reward home health agencies that provide high-value care to their patients while reducing payments to agencies that don’t meet certain performance and quality standards. 

“Home health care allows patients more control over their health care, and provides a sense of comfort, familiarity, and normalcy for the patient and their families," Walden said. "I know this first-hand, because it’s what my parents chose. And it’s not just a win for the patient. Home-based care benefits Medicare as a whole.  Having people recover at home is less expensive than in a hospital or nursing home.”

“But the Obama Administration’s cuts have put thousands of Oregon seniors in danger of losing their home health care," the congressman claimed. "That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to stop these harsh cuts and replace them with smart reforms that reward home health agencies that provide high value care to their patients.

"We’ll get more for our money and better care for patients without these across the board cuts. This common-sense bill will stop the Administration’s cuts to home health care, and allow Oregon seniors to continue to receive the care they need and that depend on,” Walden continued.

Last November, Walden said, the administration used their authority under the Affordable Care Act to cut home health care payments by 14 percent over four years — the maximum amount allowed under the law.

The board that sets Medicare rates predicts that the cuts will cause more than 40 percent of home health providers nationwide to operate in the red.  And that number jumps to 70 percent of home care providers in Oregon.

According to the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, more than 15,000 Oregonians already benefiting from home health services could lose access to their providers, and nearly 3,000 home health care workers in Oregon could lose their jobs.

The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act repeals the Obamacare cuts in 2015-2017. Instead, savings are achieved by establishing a value-based purchasing (VBP) program to better incentivize home healthcare agencies to deliver high-quality care to patients and reduce hospital readmission rates.

This plan is designed to be budget-neutral, and positions Medicare to save money in the long run, the congressman said.

The Oregon Association of Home Care praised the bill.

“Oregon has long been a leading provider of high quality cost effective care through innovative health care, including home care to Oregonians in need," said Shaune Mattsson, OAHC’s president.

"Congressman Walden's support and sponsorship of the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act is further demonstration of his understanding of the importance of home health care in our state," Mattsson said.

"We continue to work with and encourage Congressman Walden to ensure that the sickest and most frail of our population are not adversely impacted by payment decisions and that with this legislation, Congress ensures that agencies make the right choice to provide quality care to all patients in need that qualify,”

“OAHC graciously thanks Congressman Walden for continuing to support the delivery of high-quality home health care in Oregon and nationally, through the introduction of SAVE Act, to showcase the value of focusing home health care reimbursement on quality measures of care versus the arbitrary cuts the industry has endured to-date,” Mattsson continued. 

Seniors’ advocates praised the bill as well, Walden's office said in its news release.

“We commend Congressmen Greg Walden and colleagues for their leadership in introducing this bill that will improve patient care while reducing Medicare spending through proven payment reforms,” said Dan Weber, founder and president of AMAC - the Association of Mature American Citizens.

“Millions of mature Americans have been promised access to Medicare services – a promise the Obamacare home health cuts threaten to break.  The SAVE Medicare Home Health Act puts a stop to these careless Medicare cuts, which is what we believe is best for senior citizens and mature Americans.”

Walden introduced the bill with Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.). Also cosponsoring the bill at introduction are Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Tom Latham (R-Iowa), Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Charles Boustany (R-La.), and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.).

Click here for a summary of the bill and here for the full text of the legislation.