October 30, 2017

Bipartisan Group Of House Lawmakers Ask HHS, CMS To Scrap Home Health Cuts In Final Rule

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Inside Health Policy

A group of 174 House lawmakers, led by Reps. Ralph Abraham (R-LA) and Terri Sewell (D-AL), asked HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan and CMS Administrator Seema Verma not to include 2019 cuts that rely on a new home health group model in the final pay rule for that sector, and to instead work with stakeholders to develop and implement other pay reforms.

The home health pay rule, which was proposed July 25, would cut nearly $1 billion from Medicare reimbursement for home health services in 2019 by changing the unit of payment for home health episodes from 60 days of care to 30 days.

“We have heard from a number of stakeholders who are concerned that the proposed rule lacks key methodology and data points to allow home health agencies to accurately estimate the impact of the proposed HHGM,” the lawmakers write in the Oct. 25 letter. “It is essential that those most affected by the proposed rule have the opportunity, as well as the necessary information, to evaluate any consequences prior to the CMS finalizing the proposed reforms.”

The representatives say that while the new model would make Medicare more efficient, changes must be done in a more prudent manner that does not compromise access to care. The proposed changes are not budget neutral and would reduce reimbursements for home health programs by as much as $950 million — 4.3 percent — in 2019 alone.
Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare Chairman Keith Meyers praised the House lawmakers, saying the “letter is yet another voice in the chorus of concern with HHGM and we strongly urge the Administration to take these comments into account and not finalize this rule.”

The House letter follows a Sept. 26 letter from a group of 49 bipartisan senators asking then-HHS Secretary Tom Price and Verma not to move forward with the cuts until stakeholders could fully analyze and understand the impact of the proposed changes.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) also sent a letter to Verma in September asking the agency not to finalize the changes, citing concerns that CMS was implementing them too quickly.

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