June 23, 2015

Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare Urges Support for Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act

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Washington, DC- The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare – a coalition of home health providers dedicated to improving the integrity, quality, and efficiency of home healthcare for our nation’s seniors – today urged lawmakers in Congress to advance the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act (S.578), a bill to end the prohibition on allowing nurse practitioners to certify patient eligibility for Medicare home health services. Home health leaders applauded the measure because it will promote timely access to home health services, while also reducing barriers to care for Medicare beneficiaries.

The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act would allow nurse practitioners to certify home health services for Medicare beneficiaries without having to obtain physician approval of their assessment that a patient requires Medicare home health services – reforming an outdated requirement that currently prohibits and delays access to home healthcare. Nurse practitioners are already certified to perform such evaluations without any physician involvement for hospice services, underscoring the validity and necessity of this legislation.

“The Partnership commends Senator Susan Collins and her colleagues in the U.S. Senate for sponsoring this legislation, which would improve access to skilled home healthcare for Medicare’s most vulnerable patient population, particularly those patients living in underserved and rural parts of the country,” said Eric Berger, CEO of the Partnership. “Allowing nurse practitioners to certify patients for Medicare’s home health services would remove barriers to care that currently restrict access to patient-preferred healthcare for homebound beneficiaries.”

New data from Avalere Health illustrates the importance of preserving – and increasing – access to home healthcare for Medicare beneficiaries living in rural communities. The Avalere report finds 26 rural counties relied on a single home health agency in 2013, and an additional 27 counties were served by just two providers. In total, more than 631,000 Medicare beneficiaries in nearly 2,000 rural counties relied on home healthcare services in 2013 – according to the latest available Medicare data.

“We look forward to working with lawmakers in Congress to advance this important bill in the Senate and stand ready to work with their colleagues in the House to ensure timely passage of this important measure to strengthen access to care for our nation’s sickest seniors,” added Berger.

Nationwide, 3.5 million American seniors and disabled individuals rely on skilled home healthcare clinicians, therapists and other health professionals to manage their conditions and medications and assist them in maintaining optimal health in their homes. The Medicare home health benefit is widely recognized as clinically advanced, cost-effective and patient-preferred.