Impact of higher payments for rural home health episodes on rehospitalizations

J Rural Health. 2023 Jun;39(3):604-610. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12725. Epub 2022 Nov 6.


Purpose: Home health agencies delivering care in rural counties face unique challenges when providing care to older adults; long travel times between each visit can limit the number of patients seen each day. In 2010, Medicare began paying home health (HH) providers 3% more to serve rural beneficiaries without evaluating the policy's impact on patient outcomes.

Methods: Using 100% Medicare data on postacute HH episodes from 2007 to 2014, we estimated the impact of higher payments on beneficiaries outcomes using difference-in-differences analysis, comparing rehospitalizations between rural and urban postacute HH episodes before and after 2010.

Findings: Our sample included 5.6 million postacute HH episodes (18% rural). In the preperiod, the 30- and 60-day rehospitalization rates for urban HH episodes were 11.30% and 18.23% compared to 11.38% and 18.39% for rural HH episodes. After 2010, 30- and 60-day rehospitalization rates declined, 10.08% and 16.49% for urban HH episodes and 9.87% and 16.08% for rural HH episodes, respectively. The difference-in-difference estimate was 0.29 percentage points (P = .005) and 0.57 percentage points (P < .001) for 30- and 60-day rehospitalization, respectively.

Conclusions: Increasing payments resulted in a statistically significant reduction in rehospitalizations for rural postacute HH episodes. The add-on payment is set to sunset in 2022 and its impact on access and quality to HH for rural older adults should be reconsidered.

Keywords: Medicare; home care services; postacute care; rehospitalization; rural health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Medicare*
  • Patient Readmission*
  • United States / epidemiology