LEWISTON — Maine AARP and local home health care officials honored U.S. Sen. Susan Collins for her legislative work on behalf of the elderly during a brief ceremony at Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice in Lewiston on Thursday morning.

Collins was presented with a new national AARP award for legislative leadership by Nelson Megna, president of Maine AARP. Officials praised her work on a measure that seeks to reduce unnecessary hospital readmittance for Medicare patients that was incorporated into the new health care reform package.

“A 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that almost one third of Medicare patients who were discharged from hospitals are readmitted within 90 days and that is at a cost of more than $17 billion a year in rehospitalizations that are largely preventable, if instead you had a system of home care to ease that transition,” Collins said.

Collins, who voted against the recently enacted health care legislation, acknowledged there are some pieces of the package that she supports.

“Though I was not happy about the bill overall, there are some very good provisions in it and this is certainly one of them. It’s also a provision that I am convinced is going to save real money, but even more important, it’s going to provide peace of mind and better care to millions of seniors who are discharged from hospitals every year and have to make that transition back to their own homes,” Collins said.

Julie Shackley, president and chief executive officer of Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice, said Collins has been a longtime champion of home care.

“Sen. Collins we continue to be inspired by your knowledge of home-based care services and those needs and look forward to working with you to create improved access to these types of services under the Medicare program,” she said.

Collins said she was convinced of the importance of home health care services after going on a visit with a home health care worker in Caribou about 10 years ago.

“I visited an elderly couple whose only wish was to spend their remaining years together in their own home in Caribou and not be separated by one of them having to go into a nursing home,” she said. “Each of them had considerable health challenges, but because of home health care, they were able to spend their remaining years together in the privacy, security and comfort of their own home.”

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