February 14, 2020

Lawmakers Call for Increased Access to Home Health In Rural America

On Feb. 12, the Senate Special Committee on Aging Chair Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-PA) hosted a hearing, There’s No Place Like Home: Home Health Care in Rural America, to examine the issues impacting Medicare’s home health patient population, specifically aging Americans living in rural areas.

The hearing, which included witnesses from the home health provider community, highlighted a number of topics, including:

  • Expanding Access to Home Health. In rural and underserved communities where physicians can be limited, nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses direct the care of Medicare beneficiaries. The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act of 2019 (H.R. 2150/S. 296), which the Partnership supports, would allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other advanced practice nurses to certify their patients’ eligibility for home health services.
  • Protecting Home Health for Rural Seniors. Medicare’s home health rural safeguard was put in place to ensure older Americans living in rural parts of America were not excluded from receiving home health, due to the higher costs of providing Medicare home health to patients in rural areas resulting from increased transportation and staffing costs. The Partnership also supports the extension of the current 3% rural add-on for home health services delivered in rural communities.
  • Monitoring the Impact of the Patient Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) Implementation. PDGM went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, changing payment from a 60-day unit to a 30-day unit and reducing home health reimbursement by 4.36%. In discussing PDGM implementation, Senator Collins stated, “Agencies have weathered several years of reimbursement reductions through both regulatory changes as well as sequestration, and we cannot assume that they can continue to provide the same level of home health services at reduced rates.” The Partnership is monitoring the impacts of PDGM on care delivery and patient access and we will share our observations with CMS and our legislative champions in Congress.

The Partnership applauds Senators Collins and Casey for their leadership in hosting this briefing to discuss issues that impact the care of more than 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries. To read all witness testimony, CLICK HERE.