Under the Dome

Tillis: Home-healthcare Medicare cut unneccessary result of Affordable Care Act

The home health-care industry is reeling from a federal rule that went into effect on Jan. 1 that will result in a 14 percent cut to base Medicare home-health benefits over the next four years. On Thursday, 150 or so clinicians, patients and caregivers rallied in Raleigh to draw attention to the plight, which they say could threaten nearly 30,000 beneficiaries and more than 11,000 jobs in North Carolina.

Did we mention the new regulation is a result of the federal Affordable Care Act?

That’s what drew U.S. Senate Republican primary candidate Thom Tillis to the rally at a North Raleigh hotel. He said the regulation will harm access to health care, drive up costs and leave patients at risk.

He called on North Carolina’s congressional delegation and the Obama administration to repeal it. Turns out incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan already signed a bipartisan letter in September expressing concern about what the impact of what that rule would be.

Tillis said she could have done more.

“She voted for Obamacare. This enabled this policy,” he said. “It’s not unlike the recent vote for cutting pensions for the elderly. So there’s a number of instances where she says one thing and she votes another way. She needs to answer for those. It’s a great opportunity for her to not only talk about what she’d like to do but step up and lead and do it.”

Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner responded later Thursday by email:

"Kay is focused on commonsense fixes to make this law work better for North Carolina, and she was today named the most moderate senator because of her efforts working across the aisle to get results. Thom Tillis would shut down the government to score political points, and his only plan for health care is to repeal this law, taking away free preventive care for North Carolina seniors and increasing the cost of their prescription drugs."

Tillis was asked after the event about a Washington Post fact-checker column Thursday awarding three Pinocchios to anyone saying – as Tillis has – that the federal health-care law will lead to massive job losses, relying on an interpretation of a Congressional Budget Office report.

“At the end of the day it is going to affect the number of people employed,” he said. “Now you can argue it’s because they choose not to work or other factors are involved. It’s just another example of the administration is cooking the books.”

Tillis, who is House speaker, said there was a lot of rhetoric over the health-care law, and that’s why he and Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger have formed a joint study committee to assess its impact in North Carolina. Asked how he will keep politics out of the process, Tillis said there will be time for public comment, in addition to hearing from employers and those who have been harmed by the new law.

He said the committee will meet throughout the coming year, and ultimately determine whether the legislature needs to take action in response to the ACA. But he makes it clear he thinks the new law is flawed, and the home health-care issue is just one of the first manifestations of that.

“If they’re making these sorts of dramatic policy decisions now, what do you think is going to happen in the future?” Tillis said. “I think it could get worse, and that’s one of the reasons we’re trying to do the oversight committee, to figure out what more may come.”