Tyrone White helps make a staircase in Baltimore accessible for a woman with Parkinson's disease. (AP photo/Patrick Semansky)

Providing home health care benefits quickly may help enough middle-aged Medicaid enrollees with disabilities stay out of nursing homes to cut those people’s overall long-term care (LTC) costs.

Greg Peterson and other researchers at Mathematica Policy Research come to that conclusion in a home health care report prepared for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The researchers used data from Medicaid pilot programs for Iowa residents ages 18 to 64.

The researchers looked to see what happened to people with disabilities who got home health care benefits within six months of applying and people who faced longer delays.

Because younger adults with disabilities rarely entered nursing homes, the researchers had a hard time coming up with statisitcally significant results for those younger adults.

But quick access to home health care benefits helped lead to a modest reduction in the likelihood that the older Iowans would go to the hospital with preventable health problems, and it led to a big reduction in the likelihood that the older Iowans would enter a nursing home.

People ages 41 to 64 with severe brain injuries were only about half as likely to enter a nursing home if they had quick access to home health care benefits.

Quick access to home health care cut the risk that people ages 55 to 64 with physical disabilities would enter a nursing home about 75 percent.

Medicaid spent more on home health care for the people who got quick access to home health care benefits, but reductions in spending on nursing home care offset the increase in home health care spending, and total Medicaid spending for the quick-access group was comparable to the spending for the people who faced long delays, the researchers found.

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