Home Health Agencies Carving Out Bigger Role in US Economy

The home health industry continues to carve out a bigger role in the overall U.S. economy, with agencies creating more jobs and paying more in wages than ever before.

Overall, home health agencies created more than 2.22 million jobs in 2019, employing more than 1.51 million workers in the process. That workforce took home more than $49.52 billion in estimated total wages.

These and other findings were highlighted in the latest Home Health Chartbook, released earlier this week by the Alliance for Home Health Quality & Innovation. Compiled annually by the Alliance with the help of Avalere Health, the Chartbook is a comprehensive analysis of the home health industry and the Medicare beneficiaries who utilize its services.

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Data from the Chartbook comes from a range of government sources, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Home Health Compare, Medicare fee-for-service claims and several other Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) files.

The fact that the home health industry is becoming such a major economic force couldn’t come at a better time.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs over the past nine months due to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its far-reaching impact. BLS reported Thursday that another 709,000 individuals filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

That total is a slightly smaller number of initial claims than economists had expected, but still an astronomical spike compared to recent periods of economic stability.

To offset economic losses tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple policymakers and politicians have suggested diverting further government support to the in-home care workforce. President-Elect Joe Biden, for example, pitched a $775 billion plan to boost the caregiver economy in July.

Home health agencies employed a similar number of workers in 2018, paying out a smaller wage total of $46.2 billion, however.

Employment of home health aides and personal care aides is projected to grow 34% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to BLS. As the baby-boom generation ages and the elderly population grows, the demand for the services of home health aides and personal care aides will continue to increase.

Broadly, the economic contribution of home health agencies has steadily risen since at least 2003, the Chartbook suggests. That’s true despite the shrinking size of the industry, at least in terms of Medicare-certified freestanding home health agencies.

From 1994 to 2015, the number of freestanding home health agencies climbed from 4,613 to 10,554. That total has fallen since then, dropping to 10,034 in 2018, according to the Chartbook.

Total home health expenditures reached $35.88 billion last year.

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