Patients, providers of 'infusion' therapy could get more federal support in budget deal

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Thousands of Medicare patients who rely on in-home care now lean on lawmakers in Washington for help.

Advocacy groups say the Congress must address a year-long funding gap that’s putting a strain on patients and providers.

Our Washington Bureau’s Alana Austin reports on how the proposed budget deal in the Senate could offer relief.

“It’s convenience, it’s their preference and medically it’s more sound for them to be at home," said Tyler Wilson, president of the National Home Infusion Association.

For 25,000 Medicare patients, access to a type of in-home care can protect them from life-threatening infections they’re more prone to get in a hospital.

“That can seriously compromise these already fragile patients, and if they get further compromised, that can be a very quick downward spiral," said Wilson.

Wilson explains this sort of medical care means very sick patients can receive critical medications through IVs during a house call. He says it’s safer for the patients and avoids expensive hospital tabs.

“They could receive these infusions in the hospital, but their admission there might cost $10,000...whereas if they are receiving the therapy at home, it boils down to about $150 a day," said Wilson.

But since January 2017, providers of this treatment no longer receive the same level of federal support.

According to Wilson, that sharp drop in reimbursement puts a squeeze on a $14-billion-dollar industry.

The two-year budget deal put forward by Senate leaders would address this funding gap - that’s because in 2021, a permanent payment plan will kick in for these services.

“I had a personal experience - my son was in a terrible accident," explained Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

Isakson saw first-hand what infusion therapy can offer patients and families when his own son, Kevin, benefited from this type of treatment.

“My wife and I learned how to change the IVs, how to clean the ports… so he could come back to his full health and rest at home in his own room," said Isakson.

This measure has widespread bipartisan support and is expected to be included in the upcoming budget deal in Congress.

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