Health Care Benefits Continue to Decline

Employer-based retirement health care insurance benefits continue to decline, according to recent industry reports.

Many retirees have been able to rely on private or state employer-based retirement health benefits for supplemental health care coverage while on Medicare in the past, but this is becoming less common.

Employer-based health-related benefits can provide important coverage for the gaps that exist in Medicare programs. Additional coverage benefits can alleviate the cost-sharing requirements and deductibles associated with Medicare. Caps on the amount that can be spent out-of-pocket, often associated with supplemental coverage, are also often helpful for retirees.

Overall, supplemental retiree health and medical benefits sponsored by a private or municipal employer have helped many retirees cope with high medical costs often incurred in retirement.

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported, however, that the number of large private employers-considered employers with 200 or more employees-offering retiree healthcare benefits has dropped from 66 percent in 1988 to 23 percent in 2015.

Companies that do continue to offer retiree health benefits have been making changes aimed at reducing the cost of benefits, including:

  • Instituting caps on the amount of the provider’s financial liability
  • Shifting from defined benefit to defined contribution plans
  • Offering retiree health care benefits through Medicare Advantage plan contracts
  • Creating benefit programs through private health insurance exchanges

State employers have also not been immune to the trend, but the type and level of coverage being offered by most states is significantly different than retirement health care coverage being offered by large companies.

Unlike many private employers, state governments continue to offer some level of retiree health care benefits to help attract and retain talented workers, according to a report titled “State Retiree Health Plan Spending,” published by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in May, 2016.

With the exception of Idaho, all states currently offer newly-hired state employees some level of retirement health care benefits as part of their benefits package, according to the report. Of the states offering retiree medical benefits, 38 have made the commitment to contribute to health care premiums for the coverage being offered. State employers are, however, also making changes to the retirement health care insurance benefits they provide to state workers.

Significant among these changes for the states is at least one driving force-the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) now requires states to report liabilities for retirement benefits other than pensions in their financial statements. The changes were required from all states by the end of 2008. As a result, the increased financial transparency forced states to review the cost of their other post-employment benefits (OPEB) and address how they plan to pay for them.

Because retirement health care benefits account for the majority of the states’ OPEB obligations, many states have made policy changes to address the upcoming obligations. Factors such as date of hire, date of retirement or vesting eligibility, including minimum age and minimum service year requirements, are now being used by states to vary or limit retirement health care benefits.

Overall, from 2010 to 2013, the states saw their OPEB liabilities decrease by 10 percent from $627 billion after inflation adjustments. While this may sound contradictory, the declines are attributed to a slowdown in the growth of health care costs coupled with benefit modifications aimed at cost reductions.

To look at one state as an example, California’s recent budget revealed that health care benefits for retirees are costing the state more than $2 billion a year for an 80 percent increase over the prior 10 years. Although the situation recently changed, California was previously one of 18 states that had nothing set aside to cover its future retiree health care benefit costs of $80.3 billion.

It should be noted that retiree health care plans are typically funded by plan sponsors on a “pay as you go” basis, meaning that monies to pay current and future health care obligations are taken from current assets and not set aside in advance. This differs significantly from pension plans governed by ERISA, which are subject to funding guidelines.

In response to California’s unfunded OPEB liability, employees and the state are now paying into a fund for future retiree health care benefit costs. The state is also matching $88 million in employee contributions and paying an additional $240 million to prefund future retirement health care benefit costs. The changes are impacting retirees as well as state and private employers.

Overall, employer-based retirement health care benefits, once important for supplementing Medicare for retired seniors, continue to decline.

The Potential Impact of Eroding Employer-Based Health Care Retirement Benefits

Many baby boomers who are currently covered by retiree medical plans and plan to rely on future employer-paid medical benefits, are likely to be disappointed to learn that these benefit plans can be changed or terminated. ERISA-governed benefit plans typically contain a “reservation of rights” provision allowing the plan sponsor to change or terminate all or parts of the plan. Many private and state employers are reducing or terminating retiree health benefits due to the increasing cost of insurance premiums, rising health care costs, and increases in longevity.

Since the early 1990s there have been many cases where unexpected changes to post-employment pension and medical benefits have resulted in lawsuits. Typically, the key issue is the reservation of rights language and/or collective bargaining agreement language for employees who were covered by a union contract which referenced retiree medical benefits.

Beneficiaries who have questions about their retiree medical benefits should speak with their plan sponsor to learn about the specific benefits available to them and have a contingency plan for bridging their medical coverage to Medicare, if they are considering early retirement or want to better understand future benefits.

How to Become a Home Health Care Nurse

Home Health Care Nursing Information and Overview

Home health care is allowing the patient and their family to maintain dignity and independence. According to the National Association for Home Care, there are more than 7 million individuals in the United States in need of home health care nurse services because of acute illness, long term health problems, permanent disability or terminal illness.

Home Health Care Basics

Nurses practice in a number of venues: Hospital settings, nursing homes, assisted living centers, and home health care. Home health care nursing is a growing phenomenon as more patients and their families desire to receive care in their homes. The history of home health care stems from Public Health Nursing where public health nurses made home visits to promote health education and provide treatment as part of community outreach programs. Today academic programs train nurses in home care and agencies place home health care nurses with ailing individuals and their families depending on the nurse’s experience and qualifications. In many cases there is a shared relationship between the agency and the academic institution.

Many changes have taken place in the area of home health care. These include Medicare and Medicaid, and Long Term Care insurance reimbursement and documentation. It is important for the nurse and nursing agency to be aware of the many factors involved for these rules and regulations resulting from these organizations. Population and demographic changes are taking place as well. Baby boomers approaching retirement and will present new challenges for the home health care industry. Technology and medical care in hospitals has lead to shorter inpatient stay and more at-home rehabilitation. Increases in medical outpatient procedures are also taking place with follow-up home care. This has resulted in the decrease of mortality rate from these technologies and medical care has lead to increases in morbidity and chronic illness that makes the need for home health care nursing a greater priority.

Home Health Care Nurse Job Description

Through an array of skills and experience, home health care nurses specialize in a wide range of treatments; emotional support, education of patients who are recovering from illnesses and injury for young children and adults, to women who have experienced recent childbirth, to the elderly who need palliative care for chronic illness.

A practicing nurse must have the skills to provide care in a unique setting such as someone’s home. The nurse is working with the patient and the family and must understand the communication skills for such dynamics. Rapport is evident in all nursing positions, but working in a patient’s own living space needs a different level of skill and understanding. There is autonomous decision making as the nurse is no longer working as a team with other nurses in a structured environment, but is now as a member of the “family” team. The host family has cultural values that are important and are different for every patient and must be treated with extreme sensitivity. Other skills include critical thinking, coordination, assessment, communication, and documentation.

Home health care nurses also specialize in the care of children with disabilities that requires additional skills such as patience and understanding of the needs of the family. Children are living with disabilities today that would have resulted in mortality just twenty years ago. Genetic disorders, congenital physical impairments, and injury are just a few. Many families are familiar with managing the needs of the child, but still need expert care that only a home health care nurse can provide. It is important that a home health care nurse is aware of the expertise of the family about the child’s condition for proper care of the child. There are many complexities involved, but most important, a positive attitude and positive reinforcement is of utmost importance for the development of the child.

Medication coordination between the home health care nurse, doctor, and pharmacist, ensures proper management of the exact science behind giving the patient the correct dose, time of administration, and combinations. Home health care nurses should be familiar with pharmacology and taught in training about different medications used by patients in the clinical setting.

Many advanced practicing nurses are familiar with medication regiments. They have completed graduate level programs. Home health care agencies believe that a nurse should have at least one year of clinical experience before entering home health care. Advanced practicing nurses can expedite that training by helping new nurses understand the home health care market and teaching.

Employment and Salary

According to the United States Department of Labor, there were 2.4 million nurses in America, the largest healthcare occupation, yet many academic and hospital organizations believe there is a gross shortage in nursing staff. The shortage of nurses was 6% in 2000 and is expected to be 10% in 2010. The average salary for hospital nursing is $53,450 with 3 out of 5 nursing jobs are in the hospital. For home health care, the salary is $49,000. For nursing care facilities, they were the lowest at $48,200.

Training and continuing education

Most home health care nurses gain their education through accredited nursing schools throughout the country with an associate degree in nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), or a master’s degree in nursing (MSN). According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2004 there were 674 BSN nursing programs, 846 ADN programs. Also, in 2004, there were 417 master’s degree programs, 93 doctoral programs, and 46 joint BSN-doctoral programs. The associate degree program takes 2 to 3 years to complete, while bachelors degrees take 4 years to complete. Nurses can also earn specialized professional certificates online in Geriatric Care or Life Care Planning.

In addition, for those nurses who choose to pursue advancement into administrative positions or research, consulting, and teaching, a bachelor’s degree is often essential. A bachelor’s degree is also important for becoming a clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners (U.S. Department of Labor, 2004).

All home health care nurses have supervised clinical experience during their training, but as stated earlier advanced practicing nurses hold master’s degrees and unlike bachelor and associate degrees, they have a minimum of two years of post clinical experience. Course work includes anatomy, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, nutrition, psychology, and behavioral sciences and liberal arts. Many of these programs have training in nursing homes, public health departments, home health agencies, and ambulatory clinics. (U.S. Dep. of Labor, 2004).

Whether a nurse is training in a hospital, nursing facility, or home care, continuing education is necessary. Health care is changing rapidly and staying abreast with the latest developments enhances patient care and health procedures. Universities, continuing education programs, and internet sites, all offer continuing education. One such organization that provides continuing education is the American Nurses Association (ANA) or through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Conclusion

There are many rewards to becoming a home health care nurse. Some rewards include the relationship with a patient and their family, autonomy, independence, and engaging in critical thinking. The 21st Century brings with it many opportunities and challenges. We must meet these challenges head on – there is an aging baby boomer population, a growing morbidity factor due to increased medical technology and patient care, and the growing shortage in nursing care.

Becoming a home health care nurse today is exciting and an opportunity to make a difference one life at a time. With clinical experience and proper education, a home health care nurse will lead the future of medical care.

Home Health Care vs Assisted Living

Home Health Care in Los Angeles

Home health care is health care that is provided to patients inside their home, and usually by either health care professionals or family and friends. The term “home care” suggests that the care provided is non-medical and more of a custodial nature, whereas “home health care” may suggest licensed staff members. The differences here are similar to the differences between assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Much like assisted living facilities, home health care lets seniors enjoy a good measure of independence. An elderly individual or couple will appreciate having privacy as well as assistance in daily living needs.

What Home Health Care Provides

What kind of services does home health care provide? Home health care may help seniors with daily living needs such as bathing, dressing, house keeping and cooking and dining preparation. Depending on the needs of the resident, there may be special provisions such as transportation services and errands, volunteer programs, exercise and walking, and toileting assistance. More extensive forms of home health care would also provide rehabilitation programs, including visits from physical therapists and nurses. Other qualified home health care professionals may include respiratory nurses, occupational nurses, social workers, mental health workers and physicians.

Who pays for home health care? This type of outside assisted living program can be paid by private resources from the resident or family, by public payers such as Medicare and Medicaid or by employer-sponsored health insurance plans. Medicare will usually not pay for home health care on a long term basis while Medicaid is more likely to help low-income families with little or no assets. Employer-sponsored home health care is likely to be on a short term basis unless the insurance plan is very generous. Most of the time home health care will be paid for by a family’s own resources.

Comparing Home Health Care with Assisted Living

How does home health care compare with in-house stays at nursing homes and assisted living facilities? Most seniors would prefer home health care, of course, as people always do value their privacy. However, there are also circumstances that would necessitate constant supervision of the resident at an assisted living facility, and not only occasional visits. Home health care is basically assisted living, but with even more independence. Therefore a resident that cannot be left alone for long periods of time would be better suited in a nursing or board and care type home.

It might appear that home health care would be cheaper than a stay in a nursing home. However, home health care costs can be just as expensive, depending on the number of hours aides work. Some residents have admitted that full time home health care usually costs twice as much as a stay in a board and care or assisted living home. Most home health care agencies will charge about $20.00 an hour or over. If the resident is relatively independent then the fees associated with the service can be controlled. However, don’t forget that if your needs are minimal to begin with, you could hire a trusted individual to perform the same tasks and save money from paying an agency fee.

Home health care is ideal for seniors who feel well and can easily get around but who need occasional doctor visits and help with housekeeping. It is also a preferable choice if a senior needs full time care but does not want to become a resident in a public nursing home. Full time home health care provides the most privacy and personal attention possible. If you are looking for this type of senior assistance, you should always be mindful of the qualifications of workers, as opening one’s home to a stranger could always be a security risk. The best home health care agencies have screened workers who are well qualified in their field.

How We Can Help You

ElderHomeFinders is a company dedicated to helping seniors locate assistance in the southern California area. We inspect assisted living facilities and retirement communities in the area so that our clients will find the perfect home at a price they can afford. Can ElderHomeFinders also help seniors find home health care? Yes. Our company can put you in touch with the right home health care agency, according to your special needs and budget limitation. We can also advise you on the differences between home health care services and assisted living and board and care facilities and which choice would better work for you. Seniors have worked hard all their life and surely deserve the best health care possible – whether in a senior living facility or in their own home.

Understanding Your Medicare Home Health Care

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For many caregivers and families who are searching to find out more information on how they can care for their elders and loved ones, it can seem like a daunting task. One of the most important distinctions that have to be made on your information gathering quest is to know the difference between Medicare covered Home Care vs. all other forms of home care. In this article, we will explain what Medicare Home Care is and how to find out if you or your loved one qualifies.

What is Medicare Home Health Care?

Home Health Care is skilled nursing care and certain other health care services that you get in your home for the treatment of an illness or injury.

One of the services offered to senior citizens by Medicare is Home Health Services. Medicare recipients must qualify for services, and they must be recommended by the individual’s primary care physician or specialty care physician.

“tips health care”

Medicare beneficiaries who feel they may need Medicare home care should always look into whether they can actually qualify for Medicare home health services. It is not a general personal care or chore-worker service. Rather, Medicare home care covers limited, specifically defined at-home care related to diagnosed medical conditions, and sometimes includes personal care services.

These Medicare home care services must be prescribed by a physician, and provided through a licensed home health agency. The beneficiary must have a medical condition, or combination of conditions, that require periodic services from a skilled nurse or therapist. A plan of care will be developed that describes the specific services covered. Eligibility and coverage are evaluated strictly so the beneficiary’s conditions and care needs must be aired fully.

Medicare Home Care Qualifications

It is common for an elderly person to need assistance upon discharge from a hospital or in-patient rehabilitation stay. That individual’s physician, sometimes in concert with family members and the patient him/herself, would determine the in-home health care need and complete paperwork that refers the patient to home health care.

Other common situations include the slow physical decline elderly people experience; when that decline includes inability to care for oneself on a daily basis-but nursing home care is not yet required-the physician may recommend home health care for just those tasks the senior is unable to perform.

These four conditions must be met before homecare services can be prescribed and covered by Medicare:

1. Your doctor must decide that you need medical care in your home, and make a plan for your care at home; and

2. You must need at least one of the following: intermittent (and not full time) skilled nursing care, or physical therapy or speech-language pathology services or continue to need occupational therapy; and

3. You must be home bound or normally unable to leave home & leaving home takes a considerable and taxing effort. A person may leave home for medical treatment or short, infrequent absences for non-medical reasons; and

4. The home health agency caring for you must be approved (“certified”) by the Medicare program.