Some Fear Home Health Services Will Become Scarce

Saturday, March 26th 2016, 11:40 pm
By: News 9

Thousands of Oklahomans depend on home health services, but some fear those services will become strained with new legislation.

House Bill 1566 hasn't been fully implemented by the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, but when it does, it could bring about some changes for those who depend on home health care.

"I even went outside and chopped off some dandelions yesterday in the front yard, and the neighbor caught me,” LaDonna Biese said.

Her hand is over her mouth. It's a big deal. Biese's 81 years old.

"'Where's your oxygen, grandma,’” she said.

She took off her oxygen tube. Biese has home health services, but nobody is there 24/7, and some fear it may come down to nobody being here for extended periods of time.

Lawmakers said the purpose of House Bill 1566 is to lower healthcare costs by improving care through coordination and preventing the need for future cuts, but some healthcare providers believe it'll make their already heavy caseload even worse.

"Where our case managers now have a case load of about 35 patients, under a managed care organization they require about a hundred,” home healthcare provider Lola Edwards said.

Edwards said many elderly and disabled patients are on a program called Advantage. It helps about 233,000 Oklahomans, including Biese, with anything from meals, cleaning to nurses visits.

"I take quite a few pills,” Biese said. “Some of the them are little bitty and they look alike, and I got them mixed up, and I got a little sick."

Biese now has a nurse check up frequently and sort those pills in a pill box.

"If I've got 100 patients now, I'm not going to get to them that quickly,” Edwards said.

She said it could be life threatening depending on the service.

Or as Biese put it:

"I'd be up the creek,” she said.

Lawmakers say House Bill 1566 does not require, cause or contribute to any cuts. They also say the current system pays providers when recipients are ill, and the goal here is to pay providers for healthy patients.