Recently, the home health care industry has come under attack as media attention spotlights examples of alleged Medicare fraud and exploitation of the elderly and disabled. As a result, public and legislative trust in the integrity of this important health care delivery system is at risk.

As the representative voice of the founders of home health care in this country, the Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) is particularly disheartened to see the image of our industry so strongly maligned due to actions taken by some agencies that have apparently decided to not play by the rules.

The more than 212 visiting nurse associations comprising our national membership have helped millions of patients across the United States overcome illness and injury and cope with disability and death in the comfort of their own homes.

As of 1995, we comprised approximately 46 percent of all non-profit home health agencies in the United States and approximately 6.6 percent of all home health agencies in the country.

We understand how discouraging it must be for Medicare home care benefit recipients to think that the care they rely on and trust could potentially be compromised in the name of profiteering.

Responding to allegations levied against Medicare home health care providers, President Clinton announced a national crackdown on fraud and abuse in the home health industry and imposed a six-month moratorium on certifying new agencies into the Medicare program.

In keeping with our history of legislative involvement and patient advocacy, the VNAA applauded Clinton's actions and strongly endorsed his proposals for improving the Medicare home health benefit program. Certainly, we are disappointed that this initiative will put pressure on the quality players in home health, such as visiting nurse associations, but we believe this aggressive stance is needed to curtail abuses.

We see the moratorium as an opportunity to enact measures that safeguard patient access to quality care provided by dedicated Medicare-certified agencies. And this is an opportunity to make certain that we, and other patient-focused providers, take a strong leadership role in establishing standards of quality, excellence and compassionate care-giving for this industry.

We have an important and visible role to play in determining the framework within which the renaissance of our industry must take place.

We believe the moratorium will enable the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) to develop standards ensuring that only ethical, honest and qualified home care providers receive and maintain certification.

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