High fuel prices are impacting the majority of businesses, but not many industries have workers travelling nearly 5 billion miles a year like the home care industry (Fuel’s surge a headache for home health providers, 7.21.08). In New York alone, home care workers drive 500,000,000 miles annually.
Given the unprecedented rise in the cost of fuel, home care agencies are struggling to provide services to Medicaid and Medicare home care patients in rural hard-to-serve areas. Home care agencies are finding it difficult to pay workers for the increased cost of fuel needed to visit rural patients and some workers are leaving for jobs in health care sectors and other industries where extensive travel is not needed.
Government officials overseeing Medicaid and Medicare must intervene before more home care patients are left with no one to care for them. Additional funding for rural services is required, as is reimbursement for telehealth where patients can be remotely monitored in order to provide care more efficiently.
An aging population and desire to remain in the comfort of home has resulted in a growing demand for home care. It is crucial that government increase investment in home care to meet the growing demand of this cost-efficient source of care.
Phyllis A. Wang
The writer is President of the New York State Association of Health Care Providers, Inc. (HCP), a statewide trade association representing the full spectrum of home and community-based providers.