Ideas. Action. Results.

Anand Parekh and Katherine Hayes: Medicare’s $31 billion challenge: preventing older adult falls

The Hill

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Last week the Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan bill that will greatly help older adults who suffer from multiple chronic conditions. The CHRONIC Care Act of 2017 includes important provisions that better enable Medicare Advantage plans to provide social supports such as minor home modifications as supplemental benefits. These modifications such as railings in the home and grab bars in the bathroom would greatly assist frail elderly Americans stay in their homes and protect them from the risk of falls.

Sadly, each year, millions of Americans over the age of 65, more than one out of four, experience a fall resulting in 2.8 million emergency department visits and 800,000 hospitalizations. Most of the injuries occur from broken bones, such as hip fractures, and head injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries. All told, 27,000 adults die from falls each year making it the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults.

Recent data also suggest that falls cost the Medicare program over $31 billion annually (as a comparison, cancer costs Medicare $36 billion annually). The good news is that most falls are preventable. However, there are no comprehensive programs or policies currently in place across the federal government to tackle this public health challenge. Fortunately, there is a falls prevention policy prescription that the Bipartisan Policy Center has outlined in its reports, Healthy Aging Begins at Home and Improving Care for High-Need High-Cost Medicare Patients