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Rising Gasoline Prices Hitting Home Health Care Providers in the Pocket

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Rising gasoline prices are affecting all us. But health care workers who provide in-home care to patients in distant, rural areas say they're being hit the hardest.

Home health care aides and nurses who provide home care usually have to travel great distances. And with gasoline prices in Western New York averaging $2.91-a-gallon, they say they're being pinched.

"Our employees travel 55,000 miles every month. Our service area includes Genesee, Allegany, Cattaraugus and Wyoming Counties," said Carol Mahoney, chief executive officer of Home Care and Hospice, a non-profit agency based in Olean. "So, our employees are out on the road every single day. The rising price of gas takes it right out of their own pockets."

The problem, says Mahoney, is that agencies like hers are not able to pass those costs onto their clients. And it takes up to two years for the State Medicaid program to adjust its reimbursement rates to cover the costs. Mahoney says all that could have an adverse effect on the quality of care patients receive.

"We may have to look at rationing or triaging as a last resort," Mahoney said. "But it does affect patient care delivery when our employees are impacted like this."

Mahoney says she already lost a few employees who can't afford the higher gasoline costs. She says the solution lies with relief from the state.

"I think there will be some relief," Mahoney said. "I'm not sure when it will come and in what form. We're very hopeful. Our state representatives have been very kind to us. They're very much aware of the difficulties we face in delivering home care services."

Mahoney also laments the fact that gasoline prices in the rural areas her agency services tend to be a few cents higher than they are in urban areas like Buffalo.