National Trends and Geographic Variation in Availability of Home Health Care: 2002–2015

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To evaluate national trends and geographic variation in the availability of home health care from 2002 to 2015 and identify county-specific characteristics associated with home health care.

DESIGN:

Observational study.

SETTING:

All counties in the United States.

PARTICIPANTS:

All Medicare-certified home health agencies included in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Home Health Compare system.

MEASUREMENTS:

County-specific availability of home health care, defined as the number of available home health agencies that provided services to a given county per 100,000 population aged ≥18 years.

RESULTS:

The study included 15,184 Medicare-certified home health agencies that served 97% of U.S. ZIP codes. Between 2002–2003 and 2014–2015, the county-specific number of available home health agencies per 100,000 population aged ≥18 years increased from 14.7 to 21.8 and the median (inter-quartile range) population that was serviced by at least one home health agency increased from 403,605 (890,329) to 455,488 (1,039,328). Considerable geographic variation in the availability of home health care was observed. The West, North East, and South Atlantic regions had lower home health care availability than the Central regions, and this pattern persisted over the study period. Counties with higher median income, a larger senior population, higher rates of households without a car and low access to stores, more obesity, greater inactivity, and higher proportions of non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic populations were more likely to have higher availability of home health care.

CONCLUSION:

The availability of home health care increased nationwide during the study period, but there was much geographic variation.

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