Can caregiver acts decrease hospital readmissions?
Member of the AARP in Kansas and New York are pushing for the caregiver acts; legislature that would require hospitals to teach community caregivers to care for fragile patients discharged from the hospital in order to smooth the transition from the medical facility to home and hopefully decreasing the number of hospital readmissions. In Kansas, a group of seniors and their supporters have talked with lawmakers and met with the governor Sam Brownback last week to discuss the Caregiver Act, according to The Wichita Eagle. This bill would have hospitals working together with patients’ caregivers – usually friends or relatives – to make sure that proper accommodations are made for the patient to recover at home following a hospital stay.
Maren Turner, AARP state executive director said some but not all hospitals are complying with federal and state initiatives to decrease healthcare costs by curtailing readmissions among the poor and elderly. “It's really important the caregiver is well informed on what to do so they (patients) don't come back in a couple of days or the next week,” she said. In 2014, over a fourth of Kansas hospitals paid fines for excessive readmissions. And the year before that, preventable readmissions represented a cost of $16 billion for the healthcare system, according to an estimate by Medicare. Brownback commended the initiative although he said he didn’t know whether he would endorse it because he had not seen the language of the Caregiver Act. He did say though that it was in line with cost-reduction directives of KanCare, Kansas’s private Medicaid health system. “We're trying to make sure people can take care of themselves so they don't have to go back into the most expensive care,” he said. He also liked that the bill would not require state money. The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Connie O'Brien, R-Tonganoxie, and Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said she will introduce it in the Senate.
Meanwhile in New York, the CARE Act was introduced in the state legislature last year and is expected to be introduced again this year. The background of the bill points out that 4.1 million family caregivers in New York provide an estimate of $32 million in care a year. The Mohawk Valley Health System has always championed the education of caregivers as it refers to discharge directions, and it has gained remarkable momentum in the past year, according to director of social services and transitions in care for the health system Kim Witchley. “It’s really part of good nursing care,” she said. The CARE Act would magnify the approach of federal and state efforts to decrease readmission rates by promoting cooperation between medical facilities and community healthcare and social workers. AARP New York’s one of three main legislative priorities is to ensure that the CARE Act is passed. “We think it helps because you’re incorporating the caregiver into the hospital discharge process,” AARP New York lobbyist Bill Ferris said. Four in five NY hospitals were fined by Medicare during the current fiscal year for their high rates of readmission. Among the penalized facilities were St. Elizabeth Medical Center and Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare, both of which have been working toward supplying discharged patients with all needed community support, such as home-delivered meals and home healthcare. Moreover, the health system is planning a pilot program to make follow-up calls to released patients to ensure they are receiving all the information and help they require.