Q. What is home health?
A. Medicare provides for nursing, therapy, home health aides (personal care), and social workers to care for home bound individuals. Nurses usually make one to two visits per week, with each visit lasting 30 minutes to an hour, with the exception of wound care and other high-maintenance needs. For these issues, sometimes the nurse will visit daily or several times per week. It’s always beneficial to the patient when a patient’s caregiver or loved-one can be taught to meet some of the non-skilled needs. Therapy visits are typically two to three times per week, and they usually stay 45 minutes to an hour. The number of weeks that a nurse or therapist comes to your home depends on the progress of the patient. Home health aides typically come one to three times per week and stay usually up to an hour. An aide has to provide care that is related to the diagnoses, their work is intended to help with grooming, bathing and help in getting the patient dressed. Social workers help by assessing the patient’s needs for resources in the community.
Q. What do I pay for home health care?
A. You pay $0 for all covered home health visits. Medicare pays your home health agency a set amount of money for each 60 days you need care. (This 60-day period is called an “episode of care.”) The payment is based on the kind of health care an average person in your situation would need. Medicare has paid hospitals this way for many years.
Q. What can I be billed for?
A. If any item or service you are able to receive isn’t covered by Medicare, the home health agency is required to inform the patient before the start of service both verbally and in writing.
Q. What part of my Medicare benefit covers home health?
A. Your Part A benefit.
Q. How long can I receive services?
A. Medicare will pay for home health services for as long as you are eligible and your doctor says you need these services. However, skilled nursing care and home health aide services are paid for only on a part-time or “intermittent” basis. We tell people that your home healthcare is “goal driven” and “physician approved”. As long as your doctor says you have a skilled need, then Medicare will provide you with home health services, for as long as you need them.
Q. Who chooses my home health agency?
A. You do! You have the right to select the agency that provides your home health care. You may rely on the suggestion of your physician, friends or social worker, but the final decision is yours.
Q. What if I am unhappy with my current home health agency?
A. You may choose to stop using your current agency and receive services from a different agency at any time. You must tell both the agency you are leaving and the new agency you choose that you are changing home health agencies.
Q. What services do home health agencies provide?
A. There are many services, too many to list. Here are a few of the more common services: Nursing (i.e. wound care, diabetic education, medication management, education on hypertension, congestive heart failure and COPD.) Nursing also includes post-hospital care (i.e. surgical wounds, ostomy care and much more). Another common service is physical, occupational or speech therapy. Therapy is designed to strengthen the patient, help the patient to gain range of motion, create greater endurance for the patient. In some cases, Occupational Therapy can help teach energy conservation techniques.
Q. How can I get home health care?
A. If you or your loved one is facing surgery, you may not realize you could be faced with selecting a home health agency to provide medical care, in your home, following the hospital stay. The next time you take your mother or father to their doctor’s appointment, you might just hear the physician suggest home health care.