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Taking Care of Our Nation’s Seniors and Women

When Obamacare was sold to the American people, it was sold under the guise it would improve our access to and quality of health care. It was relayed to us that this law would bring about fairness and equality to women. But the reality is that this law has failed us — and it has failed women in particular. So when Obamacare called for a whopping 14 percent cut to Medicare’s home health funding, it became clear that little regard was given to potential consequences. The Obama administration overlooked the devastating repercussions this would have on our nation’s 3.5 million home health beneficiaries — 60 percent of whom are women.

The home health care industry is one that is overwhelmingly comprised of women, and as such, it is women who will be disproportionately affected by these onerous cuts. In addition to the direct impact on patients, there are serious consequences for those who serve this population in a professional capacity.

As 90 percent of home health professionals are women, nearly 448,000 women are now at risk of losing their jobs. Nearly half a million women nationwide — all of whom have built their careers around serving our nation’s elderly — could be forced into the growing ranks of the unemployed.

Despite promises that Obamacare would benefit women and encourage affordability, it has done the exact opposite in my home state. Senior women in North Carolina were hit particularly hard by the health care law, as premiums have practically tripled for the average 64-year-old woman in North Carolina. In Hoke, Moore and Harnett counties, senior women have experienced increases of more than 200 percent, with an average premium jump of $450 a month. Ludicrous doesn’t even begin to describe these spikes in pricing.

Like the senior women in North Carolina’s second district, Medicare’s home health care program is just one more victim of Obamacare. This renowned program treats illness and injury for some of our nation’s oldest, sickest and most vulnerable patients — a majority of whom happen to be women. Yet now, the program is suffocating from senseless cuts imposed by a misguided law better known as Obamacare.

Medicare’s home health program is widely-known for being both cost efficient and convenient, but perhaps most importantly; it’s known for its effectiveness in keeping our loved ones out of a hospital or nursing facility and allowing them to receive quality health care services in the comfort of their own home. It’s also played a vital role in rural communities, as it is one of the few areas where coordinated care can be provided to seniors.

Home health care is a program offering patients clinically-advanced care while preventing lengthy and expensive hospital stays. But in choosing to drastically reduce the funding this program will receive, we are increasing the odds that more seniors will begin seeking care in even more expensive settings, thus increasing Medicare spending. Why touch a program that has proven its success time and time again?

Jeopardizing the 28,000 North Carolina seniors’ access to home health care is not just cruel — it’s irresponsible. The same stands for the 11,000 home health professionals here in our state who are now at risk of becoming unemployed.

To stand up for these individuals, and to protect our nation’s seniors, I have joined Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Tom Price, R-Ga., in co-sponsoring the Securing Access Via Excellence Medicare Home Health Act. This legislation aims to repeal the indiscriminate spending cuts unfairly imposed on the Medicare home health program. Its patient-centered approach to reducing Medicare spending will provide sustainable reforms to our health care system, generate savings, and most importantly: It will improve care for all home health patients.

There are 5.1 million women who will be affected by these home health cuts. And not one of them deserves to bear the brunt of this ill-conceived law. Let’s make sure we take care of our nation’s seniors and women. Let’s make sure we support the SAVE Medicare Home Health Act.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is chairwoman of the Republican Women’s Policy Committee.

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