Pennsylvania continues to grow older: the number of Pennsylvanians aged 65+ reached over 2 million in 2012. Nationally, Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the percentage of persons 65 and over, behind Florida, Maine and West Virginia. The commonwealth’s senior population accounted for 16.0 percent of Pennsylvania’s total population in 2012. Schuylkill County, with its 147,000 population, is home to over 27,000 residents over 65.

Many healthcare treatments that were once offered only in a hospital or a doctor’s office can now be done in a patient’s home. The goal of home health care is to provide treatment for an illness or injury and help patients get better, regain independence, and become self-sufficient. Home healthcare is 1/20th the cost of a hospital stay and 1/5th the cost of a nursing home, more convenient, and just as effective as care in a hospital or a skilled nursing facility.

Therefore, for many qualified seniors, home healthcare is convenient and a cost-effective alternative to consider. Individuals with Medicare must meet the following conditions to be eligible for home health benefits:

Must be under the care of a doctor
Must have a Medical need, with doctor’s certification,for skilled nursing care, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, etc.
Must be home bound with a doctor’s certification
Must use an Approved (Medicare-certified) home health agency to provide care

Patients have a choice in the selection of their home healthcare provider. Seniors and their families can make an informed decision when selecting the best provider to meet their needs by using the following resources.

Medicare Star Ratings for Home Health Agencies – In 2015, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is coming up with Star Rating System for Home Health Agencies. Medicare already uses the rating system for nursing homes and health plans. The star rating goes from one star (lowest) to five stars (highest). Only about two percent of home health agencies nationwide will have five star rating. This information will be publically available through Medicare website starting in July 2015.

Medicare provides a home health comparison tool on its website (www.medicare.gov/homehealthcompare) where public can review general information about home health providers and compare quality of patient care and patient survey results among home health providers serving their area.
The HomeCare Elite™ is an annual compilation of the most successful home care providers in the United States. This market-leading review, from OCS HomeCare by National Research Corporation and Decision Health, reviews approximately ten thousand certified home healthcare agencies in the country and names the top 25 percent , top 500 and top 100 of agencies in home health performance measures.

Home Healthcare is a unique care setting because care is provided in the comfort of the patient’s own home. It is a viable alternative for many seniors and it is critical for seniors and their families to carefully select the best home healthcare provider for their needs.