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NHIA Accepts President's State of Union Invitation to Recommend Ways to Strengthen Medicare for Seniors

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 General News J E 4
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Immediate Savings to Medicare, Billions of Dollars in Health Care Savings Can be Achieved by Reformulating Medicare Policy to Include Coverage of Home Infusion

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Home Infusion Association (NHIA) today issued the following statement in response to President Obama's January 27, 2010, State of the Union call for recommendations to improve upon his proposed health care plan and strengthen Medicare coverage of seniors.

On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of home infusion patients, as well as the thousands of home infusion therapy pharmacists and nurses that serve them each year, the NHIA urges President Obama to act on home infusion legislation (S. 254 and H.R. 574), that will provide high-quality, life-saving home infusion therapy to older and disabled Americans at a significant cost-savings to Medicare. Currently, Medicare is spending billions of dollars unnecessarily, while potentially putting patients' lives at risk by not reimbursing infusion treatments at the home.

The bipartisan legislation, "Medicare Home Infusion Therapy Coverage Act of 2009," sponsored by Senators Blanche L. Lincoln (D-AR), Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY-17), Timothy F. Murphy (R-PA-18), Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI), and Kay Granger (R-TX), aims to close a gap that currently exists in coverage where the medicines used in infusions to treat serious diseases are covered, but not the medical services, supplies and equipment needed to deliver the home therapy. As a result of this coverage gap, infusion therapy in the home is not available to most Medicare beneficiaries, and thousands of beneficiaries must receive infusion treatments in the far more costly and inconvenient hospitals and nursing homes. Yet, despite overwhelming support in both Houses of Congress (32 Senate members; 102 House members), this legislation has not been given appropriate consideration in our country's broad health care reform debate.

The lack of Medicare coverage for home infusion therapy is one of the most obvious examples of Medicare waste today, but is one that can be immediately eliminated.

Home infusion has proven to be a safe, effective and cost-efficient alternative to in-patient care for many diseases. Infusion therapy involves the administration of medication directly into the bloodstream via a needle or catheter and is utilized to treat a wide range of illnesses including cancer, gastrointestinal diseases, serious infections, congestive heart failure, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis, among others. Treatment often involves a minimum of four to six weeks at a time, with a number of patients needing lifetime therapy.

Private insurance companies, including many Medicare Advantage plans, the Veterans Administration (VA), TRICARE and even most Medicaid programs, reimburse for infusion treatments provided in the home when prescribed by a physician. Unfortunately, Medicare beneficiaries alone do not have this choice, and instead must seek treatment in a hospital or nursing home at a cost that can be tens of thousands of dollars more per patient, while greatly increasing the clinical risks and increased health care costs involved by exposing immune-compromised patients to serious facility-based infections (such as MRSA).

The time to act is now. Each day, countless Medicare patients continue to struggle to make the best of a situation where they are needlessly institutionalized contrary to physician advice and at a significantly higher cost to Medicare. The resulting consequence is the senseless waste of valuable health care dollars.

Pending legislation H.R. 574/S.254 would consolidate coverage of home infusion drugs under Part D and would provide coverage for home infusion services, supplies and equipment under Part B. This fix to the Medicare program would save billions of dollars over the next ten years. NHIA stands ready to work with the President and his administration to help further the President's vision for health care reform while eliminating the suffering and inequalities currently being experienced by our nation's older and disabled Medicare beneficiaries.

NHIA, based in Alexandria, Virginia, represents and advances the interests of organizations that provide infusion and specialized pharmacy products and services to the entire spectrum of home-based patients. It is the leading voice in representing the interests of older and disabled Medicare patients denied home infusion coverage. For more information, visit www.nhia.org.

SOURCE National Home Infusion Association
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