Federal funding cuts threaten home health program for seniors

RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) Federal funding cuts threaten some of the agencies that serve seniors in their homes across the region. These home health care agencies drive six million miles a year to provide services to about 40,000 Vermont seniors. Last year Congress decided to phase out the rural add-on Medicare payment that offsets those expenses. That means states will have to make up the difference.

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A friendly greeting is the first thing Darian Fagan’s patients hear when the occupational therapist arrives at their homes. She works for the VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region. Tuesday, she’s meeting Cathy Ricketts. The Rutland resident is recovering from a hip injury. “For some people it’s a real lifeline,” Fagan said.

Twice a week, she guides Ricketts through exercises designed to help her safely complete everyday tasks like bathing or meal prep.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Why are those things important for you?
Cathy Ricketts: So that I have my freedom to get around the apartment.

Fagan’s visits help Ricketts stay here in the apartment she’s lived in for nearly 12 years. Without her help the longtime resident might otherwise have to go to a nursing home. But not everyone Fagan serves is in the city.