Father’s Day: A Reminder of the Importance of Spending Time at Home with Family

With Father’s Day approaching, the important role family plays in an individual’s daily life, particularly as a person ages, becomes impossible to overlook. As American families grow and seniors transition from the role of parent to grandparent (or even great grandparent!), the ability to celebrate comfortably with family becomes more and more central. On holidays like this one, spending time at home with loved ones is often a priority in maintaining a happy quality of life.

Whether it be watching a young grandchild run in the yard or enjoying a meal with a beloved son or daughter, seniors want to be able to spend time with the families they have spent their lives building. And with the help of the Medicare skilled home health services, this becomes possible for millions of older Americans as they age.

America’s fathers and grandfathers should have the choice to age at home, so they can spend holidays in the homes where familial memories were created, not in unfamiliar environments such as hospitals or nursing facilities. The Partnership will continue to work to ensure access to quality home healthcare for seniors so they can spend special days like this in the comfort of their own homes!

Older Americans Month Highlights the Importance of Home Healthcare

May is Older Americans Month, a time to celebrate the contributions older Americans make in their communities. The theme this year is “Age Out Loud.” It’s a time to empower America’s seniors to speak up about what it means to get older.

More than ever before, older Americans are working longer, pursuing new opportunities, and living more independent lives. For many, being able to remain at home when recovering from illness or injury is crucial to maintaining that independence. As we encourage seniors to speak out this month, we must remember what they have already told us. Data show 89% of seniors want to age in place! And thanks to Medicare home healthcare, more than 3.5 million older Americans are now able to do just that.

Yet, there is still much work to do to ensure that Medicare home health remains a viable option for America’s seniors. This year, the Partnership will continue to work with Congress and the Administration towards realizing our 2017 priorities. We will press CMS and Congress to improve the Pre-Claim Review Demonstration before it is applied to home healthcare delivery, so patients who need home healthcare aren’t improperly denied or delayed care. We will work to streamline existing face-to-face documentation rules so physicians and home health providers aren’t burdened with unnecessary paperwork, and we will fight to extend the Medicare rural safeguard payment so patients in remote communities don’t lose access to vital services.

Older Americans Month is a perfect time to reflect on how the culture of aging is changing, and how more seniors are living healthier, happier more dignified lives. This month, let’s remember how vital home healthcare is to maintaining that dignity, and have a conversation about how to strengthen it for everyone.

Good News: CMS is Re-thinking the Home Health Pre-Claim Review Demonstration

On March 31, the home health community received some good news from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)!

CMS announced that it would stop the planned implementation of a Pre-Claim Review Demonstration (PCRD) in Florida, which would have applied new, mandatory regulatory requirements on all home health agencies operating across the state on April 1 and pause the PCRD program currently underway in Illinois for at least 30 days, which has made the delivery of timely home healthcare difficult since implemented in August 2016.

Here at the Partnership, we are incredibly grateful CMS responded to the concerns expressed by bipartisan lawmakers, home health providers, and advocates both in these states and across the country. We also want to applaud the thousands of advocates who collectively reached out to CMS and their lawmakers in recent months – your efforts truly made a difference!

We hope this decision will allow the home health community to work with CMS to strengthen the Medicare home health program by developing policy alternatives and through proper education and training. We welcome the opportunity to work with CMS to develop alternative, targeted reforms to reducing fraud and abuse without disrupting the care for our vulnerable Medicare patients.

Remembering the Importance of Home for Our Seniors Around the Holidays

As families around the country gather to celebrate the holidays this year, giving gifts and spending quality time with loved ones, it’s important to reflect on the importance of home and the comfort and security it provides.

For many American seniors, nothing is more important than being able to remain at home while recovering from illness or injury.  And thanks to home healthcare, more than 3.5 million seniors now have that option. Home is comfortable. Home is where the family is. And home is where seniors want to be – especially around the holidays!

475860502At the Partnership, we work hard every day to ensure that seniors have the choice to receive care in their preferred setting. We understand that recovery is stressful enough as it is and shouldn’t be made worse by having to receive care in an unfamiliar environment.

So this holiday season, take some time to thank the dedicated doctors, nurses, and home health aides who work around the clock to make sure seniors can enjoy their golden years in the comfortable, secure, and peaceful atmosphere home provides. And remember, that for some, being able to enjoy the holidays at home, surrounded by friends and family, is the greatest gift of all.

Have a safe, happy and healthy holidays from your friends at the Partnership!

Congress Must Enact the PUSH Act to Protect Seniors Home Healthcare

As Congress wraps up for the year, the Partnership is again calling on Congress to enact the Pre-Claim Undermines Seniors’ Health (PUSH) Act of 2016, which would delay the implementation of the home health pre-claim review demonstration until Medicare and home health agencies are prepared to manage the process without disrupting care delivery.

Since the program was first rolled out in Illinois this summer, providers across the state have run into numerous delays and technical problems – including improper care denials and issues using the Medicare Administrative Coordinators (MAC) electronic submission system. This led to longer wait times and unnecessary delays in patient services.

The PUSH Act, orginially introduced by Reps. Tom Price, MD (R-GA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), would delay pre-claim review for one year to allow Congress, CMS,  and home health stakeholders to figure out how to strengthen the program through proper education and training. You can find out more about the bill here.

Fortunately, pre-claim review has already been temporarily suspended in several other states where it was slated to roll out. The PUSH Act would delay the pre-claim review for the rest of the country, and stop the program underway in Illinois.

The bill also calls on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to analyze the impact of the program and present a series of alternative measures for combating home health claims fraud – the original purpose of pre-claim review.

There is still time for you to help protect vulnerable seniors who depend on home health seniors – contact your member of Congress today and asking him or her to support this bill!  Click below to get started:

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National Seniors Poll Signals Opposition to Pre-Claim Review Policy

Recent data sponsored by Bring The Vote Home (BTVH) found that the large majority of U.S. seniors oppose Medicare policy that requires a government contractor to approve claims for physician-prescribed home healthcare services — those often recommended by doctors for elderly patients following hospitalization.

While the data is concerning, as it proves that the majority of seniors oppose the recently implemented “pre-claim review” demonstration by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), we are not at all surprised that the senior population opposes government intervention when it comes to a patient’s health.

Healthcare decisions should be made by a physician and a patient — the federal government’s intervention only complicates, interferes and upsets the process.

The poll found that more than four-out-of-five seniors, 83 percent to be exact, of U.S. seniors think physicians should have the final word when prescribing home health. Because after all, a doctor knows significantly more about an individual patient’s situation than a government contractor.

Other key take-aways:

  • Seniors think requiring a government contractor to approve claims for home health will result in care delays.
  • Seniors think requiring a government contractor to approve care will increase costs – to both the patient and Medicare.
  • Seniors most trust doctors and nurses to handle issues related to their healthcare.

The Partnership continues to monitor the impacts of the “pre-claim review” requirement as it is implemented this month in Illinois.  In the meantime, we urge CMS to consider this data and the clearly expressed patient opinion that government interference in healthcare is wrong.

Home Health Leaders Applaud Introduction of Independence at Home Act

The Partnership commends U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) for introducing the Independence at Home Act, which will convert the Independence at Home (IAH) demonstration into a permanent national Medicare program.

The legislation has been lauded across the home health community for bringing primary medical services to Medicare beneficiaries with chronic and debilitating conditions in the comfort of their own homes. The Partnership previously praised the Independence at Home program for saving an estimated $25 million in its first year, or an estimated $3,070 per beneficiary, underscoring the value of home health services for aging Americans.

The program enables doctors and caregivers to provide primary care services to those in need of care at home, thereby reducing the number of unnecessary emergency room visits and avoidable hospitalizations and readmissions, and their associated costs.

The bill provides beneficiaries access to quality home care, giving them better control of their health and putting families at ease, while lowering healthcare costs.  The Partnership thanks these lawmakers for recognizing the value of home-based care and urges the Congress to work with home health providers to develop additional programs to protect patient access to care in the home.

Home Health Value Kit: The Human, Clinical and Fiscal Value of the Skilled Medicare Home Health Benefit

We are pleased to release a new Home Health Value Kit: a guide that provides comprehensive information on the value of the Medicare home health benefit. Home healthcare provides clinically advanced, cost effective post-acute and chronic care management in the setting patients desire most – their home. So it’s critical for lawmakers, their staff, and other stakeholders to understand the benefits it has for patients, taxpayers and the Medicare program. Continue reading for a quick look into the kit and the information it offers:

Overview

This kit contains thorough information regarding home healthcare, from details about what home health care is, who receives it, information about the Partnership, and an outline of the human, clinical and fiscal value of the Medicare home healthcare benefit. You can also learn more about how you can support and empower the senior population through Bring The Vote Home, a national initiative designed to collect seniors’ opinions on a wide range of issues while simultaneously empowering both seniors and disabled Americans to engage fully in America’s electoral process.

Quick Facts

Human Value of Home Health

Home health patients are older, poorer and sicker than the Medicare population as a whole:

  • 4% of home health Medicare beneficiaries are older than 85
  • 2% live with five or more chronic conditions
  • 2% live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty level

Clinical Value of Home Health

Patients in high quality home health and home-based care programs experience:

  • 26% fewer acute care hospitalizations
  • 59% fewer hospital bed days
  • A total of 19-30% savings in medical costs

Fiscal Value of Home Health

Skilled home healthcare is widely recognized as cost effective:

  • Medicare saves an average of $5,411 if home healthcare is the first post-acute setting utilized after a patient receives major joint replacement.
  • The average cost of care in a skilled nursing facility is $449 per day or $26,940 for a 60-day stay compared to $2,674 for a 60-day home health episode.

Want to learn more?

To view the kit in its entirety, click here.

Bring the Vote Home Releases New Polling Data & Launches a New Website

One year out from the 2016 general elections, Bring The Vote Home has released the results of new polling data, which surveyed more than 2,000 registered voters over age 65.

This polling data revealed that American seniors want a candidate who will be an advocate for them on issues specific to those over 65, including healthcare. The poll also concluded that individual states have room to improve helping seniors cast their vote, with only four in 10 seniors indicating their state does a good job educating homebound seniors on how to register or obtain an absentee ballot.

For this reason, Bring The Vote Home has also launch a brand new website to offer seniors, disabled Americans, and their healthcare clinicians the information they need to register to vote and receive an absentee ballot!

Bring The Vote Home was originally developed so that Medicare home health patients (who are homebound) could fully participate in the democratic process. BTVH has expanded to offer additional resources, including information about their lawmakers’ views on home health and senior polling data on the views and opinions of American seniors.

Learn more about Bring The Vote Home by visiting the new website and from the infographic below:

Happy National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month, which is a time to recognize the valuable role family caregivers play in the lives of America’s home health patients.  Many of Medicare’s home health patients are able to remain at home – and out of institutional settings – while receiving essential care services because of the collective support of home health professionals and their family caregivers.

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Nearly 89% of seniors say they want to age in place, or live independently and remain in their own homes while receiving care. However, home health patients are more likely to live and they are also some of the poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable beneficiaries in the Medicare program, underscoring the critical importance of family caregivers.

Without family caregivers, it would be much more difficult to coordinate and provide the care our seniors need and deserve – and we want to say thank you!

Our friends at the Caregiver Action Network have many tools to help family caregivers.  There are many ways you can learn more about the role family caregivers play for home healthcare patients and how you can say thanks, including:

  1. Hear stories from family caregivers or submit your own
  2. Read through the Caregiver Action Network family caregiver toolbox
  3. Visit a forum to discuss issues caregivers deal with frequently