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Painful Places: Medicare Fails Homebound Patients With Substance Abuse Disorders

William Cabin
JHHSA, Vol. 43 No. 4, 406-419 (2021)

There is extensive literature on the significance of substance use, misuse, and abuse among the elderly in the United States. A literature review indicates a paucity of information on the nature, significance, or impacts of the lack of substance use and abuse coverage in Medicare home health. This article presents background on the topic and an initial, exploratory study to address the literature gap, based on interviews of a convenience sample of 48 home care social workers between January 2013 and May 2015 in the New York City metropolitan area. Results indicate social workers believe substance use and abuse occurs frequently among Medicare home health patients; substance use and abuse is not assessed and treated professionally in Medicare home health; the lack of coverage in Medicare home health results in exacerbation of existing patient physical and mental health conditions, which, in turn, worsen substance use and abuse conditions; the homebound requirement and lack of coverage of transportation and personal care assistants limits home care patients ability to obtain outpatient substance use and abuse treatment; and lack of home-based assessment and treatment contributes to increased home care readmissions, re-hospitalizations, and increased caregiver burden.

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