Medicare is now in its third year of testing their “Independent at Home” project, which was created by the Affordable Care Act. This program provides Medicare’s frailest senior citizen patients, who all suffer from multiple chronic conditions, with house calls by healthcare professionals.
These are Medicare’s most expensive type of patient, because they are often too debilitated or fragile to make the trip into a physician’s office, lab or x-ray facility on a regular basis. The program includes not just visits by physicians and nurses, but also social workers, mobile x-rays and lab work.
On June 18, 2015, Medicare announced that it saved more than $25 million in the first year of the study, because these seniors were able to avoid pricier hospital or emergency room care.
In 2013, Medicare paid for more than 2.6 million customized primary care house call visits, for approximately 8,400 patients, across its 17 programs nationwide. This program was designed to benefit both the patients, who would be able to stay comfortable at home, as well as the physicians. Provided that the physician meets the “Independent at Home” program’s goals, they would qualify for a potential share in government savings. This way, physicians who might lose out on a full day’s worth of in-office patients, and by extension their reimbursements, have a way to supplement their losses on days spent traveling to visit at-home patients.
There is currently pending legislation in Congress to extend the Independent at Home Project for another two years.