There Is No Place Like Home: The Pandemic Proves The Importance of “Home”

By Thomas Ryan

June 24, 2021

Just like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, the Pandemic has proven the importance of “home” in a crisis

Doctors, nurses and the scientists who created the COVID-19 Vaccines, have all emerged as heroes, during the Pandemic. But there's another, under-appreciated group that's been crucial to the country's pandemic response -- those who provide home-based medical equipment, services and care.

Without fanfare or headlines, home medical equipment providers saved thousands and improved millions of lives. They are the ones who could transform, the way that we care for our elderly and infirm -- for the better. In order to fulfill that promise, home medical equipment providers, must be paid and commensurate with the value that they deliver, for their patient's and for, the broader, healthcare systems.

The people most vulnerable to the Coronavirus, are the elderly and the most vulnerable among them, tragically, have been those, living in nursing homes.

By treating people at home, home medical equipment providers kept millions of seniors, safe from COVID-19.

Home-based care also relieved pressure on frontline healthcare workers and clinical facilities, which have been nearly overrun several times, during the Pandemic.

As the Pandemic begins to wane, home care's importance, will not, it will join remote work and contactless delivery, as rather, one of the staples, of modern life.

The COVID-Era surge in home care, is only an acceleration, of long-developing trends. First, our society is aging. Seniors are living longer, more active and independent lives, than ever before.

Second, home care is less expensive -- often, considerably, so -- than, institutional care and so, it represents a promising strategy for tackling our nation's health cost crisis.

In recent months, hospital discharge rates have started returning to Pre-Pandemic levels, but, when seniors leave the hospital, they're increasingly going home, not, to a nursing facility.

Doctors, too, are becoming more supportive. According to a 2020 survey by William Blair, the proportion of doctors preferring to send patients to home health agencies over nursing homes, rose from 54 percent to 81 percent, during the Pandemic.

All told, more than three in four seniors, view home care as the preferred way to age, according to an AARP survey. Families should be able care for their loved ones in the setting that works best for them -- and fosters, the highest quality of life.

Unfortunately, bad policy, stands in the way of this vision. While our aging population and it's preference for home care, should mean that home medical equipment suppliers are thriving and that nearly 40 percent of them, have closed their doors, over the last decade.

Why? A faulty Medicare program is unsustainably, cutting their reimbursement rates.

Congress and the Biden Administration must update these rates without any delay. An increase that considers increased product costs and new operational requirements is long overdue. The industry needs to be able to guarantee salaries for its skilled workers. Otherwise, we're setting seniors up for failure.

COVID-19 taught us that home may be the safest place to receive care, but, policies that don't reflect the true cost of care for life-saving equipment, represents a failure to heed that lesson. Without properly funded home care, we can expect lower-quality outcomes for patients, increased hospital re-admissions and an overall increase, in health costs.

The trend toward home-based health care, is only going to accelerate and the under-appreciated heroes, who have helped us through the Pandemic, will now pivot to helping people of the Baby Boomer's age group and helping their families, to care for them. Home care is good for the patient's well-being, their family's happiness and government budgets.

Washington needs to find a way to make home care providers, get the same care that they give to their's patient's with the Healthcare System.