Home Care Workers Travel Astronomical Distances on the Job

Home care workers travel to the moon and back—17,462 times a year, according to a new study.

Specifically, home care aides, nurses and therapists who serve elderly, disabled and chronically ill patients across the United States drove 7.88 billion miles and made more than 718 million home care visits in 2013.

Of these 718 million visits, about 218 million were Medicare home health and hospice visits, and about 338 million were Medicaid home care visits.

These and other study findings were reported by the Foundation for Hospice and Homecare, an affiliate of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), at a press conference on Dec. 15 in Washington, D.C.

The findings revealed that the estimated total number of miles driven by home care providers has increased considerably in recent years. In 2006, for instance, the estimated number of miles driven in home care services totaled 4.76 billion. According to a press release on the study findings, the rise in miles traveled over the last seven years can mainly be attributed to increases in Medicaid home care, Medicare home health growth and Medicare hospice utilization.

The average number of miles per visit in the U.S. in 2013 totaled 10.97, the study found. The state that recorded the highest average miles per visit that year was Maine, with 35.2.

A panel at the press conference said the study findings support several policy recommendations, including having Congress establish federal reimbursement for telehomecare services. The panelists argued that the lack of a uniform federal Medicaid and Medicare telehomecare guideline for comprehensive reimbursement is resulting in barriers to more widespread adoption of telehomecare services.
The panel also argued that the findings support passing legislation to extend the differential that Medicare pays for home health services for patients in rural and underserved areas for five additional years. The panel referenced The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act of 2015 (S. 578 /H.R. 1342), which would allow physician assistants and nurse practitioners to order Medicare home health services.
The panel also recommended permitting non-physician practitioners to certify Medicare home health services, and said innovations such as driverless car technologies should be explored to ease the burden on home care workers to travel long distances.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson