Fall Prevention is important. According to the U.S. Govt CDC, the cost of treating elderly people who fall was $34 billion in 2013 (what patients and insurance companies paid). As the U.S. population is aging, the number of falls and the cost to treat falls is likely to increase.
• Fall injuries are among the 20 most expensive medical conditions
• The average hospital cost for a fall injury is $35,000
• The cost of fall injuries goes up with age
• Medicare pays for 78% of the fall injury cost
The table below is from the CDC and indicates the % of senior citizens over age 65 who have “fallen” and those over 75 years of age who have fallen. The table also shows the % of senior citizens who fall who require institutional care after falling, and the % of those who fall who have fallen before.
Falls are the most common report given by patients over the age of 65 to emergency departments.
Unfortunately, the Medicare division that reimburses hospitals is different from the Medicare division which reimburses for DME products (walkers, wheelchairs, etc). By lowering reimbursement for walkers and wheelchairs by 50% since 2013, fewer Medicare patients may receive the fall-prevention equipment or receive it in a timely manner. The quality of the equipment may decline (due to reimbursement cuts), which could affect patient health and safety. It seems that savings Medicare achieves by reducing reimbursement for walkers and wheelchairs, is more than offset by the cost of fall injuries.
Many facilities are providing loan closets to hasten discharges requiring walkers or wheelchairs, especially now that with reimbursement cuts in Medicare for walkers and wheelchairs, fewer providers are delivering Medicare walkers and wheelchairs.