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A new law that requires Medicare enrollees to see a doctor in order to get benefits for home health care is generating objections from home health agencies, hospitals, and consumer groups, who argue that the law will jeopardize access to home health among vulnerable populations.

Beginning April 1, Medicare beneficiaries will have to see a doctor 90 days before or 30 days after starting home health services, in order for the home health agency to get reimbursed. Under current law, a doctor must prescribe home health care for patients to receive services, but the physician doesn’t have to see a patient to make that determination.

The change, which was included in last year’s healthcare reform law, is an attempt to prevent fraud and reduce wasteful spending, but critics say the new requirement will prevent some frail home-bound seniors and rural residents from getting the care they need. Some also argue that the increased paperwork is onerous and will burden physicians.

Read more about the debate.

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