Home Health & Hospice Weekly News Roundup

Our weekly list of news, reports, and information about home health and hospice care. Learn about new studies, trends, CMS regulations and more.

Amedisys Steps Up Hospice De Novo Activity

Amedisys, Inc.,(NYSE: AMED) is intensifying its de novo activity through 2019 and beyond. The company expects to open seven to nine de novo operations nationwide during 2019, with the new locations heavily weighted towards hospice. At least five of this year’s de novos will be hospices, compared to three home health locations. “We had one [de novo] last year to test it out, and it went well. So we are back in the business of building, mostly hospices but also some home health. The cost for that is quite low,” said CEO Paul Kusserow, speaking at the William Blair 2019 Growth Stock Conference in Chicago. “It takes us about 10 months and half a million dollars to build a hospice, but we believe that is something we should be continually focused on.” Looking beyond 2019 the company anticipates opening about 10 de novos annually.

LHC Group ‘Intensely Focused’ on Hospice Growth

The LHC Group (NASDAQ: LHCG) is fueling its hospice growth engine through the company’s hallmark joint venture strategy as well as new acquisitions, according to CFO Josh Proffitt, speaking at the William Blair 2019 Growth Stock Conference in Chicago. LHC Group has targeted an additional 130 markets for hospice expansion in areas where they already have a robust home health presence, as part of an bilocation strategy in which the company overlaps hospice locations with its other segments. “Hospice and home and community services segments have grown significantly over the years, and we are intensely focused on growing both those segments,” Proffitt said. “The growth outlook and the growth footprint for hospice is extremely large for LHC Group, and we couldn’t be more bullish about going out and executing on that.”

Immigration ‘Pathways’ Vital to Home Care Industry’s Future

Home care has a huge immigrant workforce, so policies restricting immigration may only worsen recruitment and retention problems, providers and researchers warn. Across the board, the health care sector often relies on immigrant labor — especially for the care of older adults. In fact, immigrants accounted for more than 18% of U.S. health care workers in 2017, according to a new study published in the journal Health Affairs. “People that are in health care know that we have a strong reliance on immigrants to take care of our patients,” Dr. Leah Zallman, the study’s lead author, told Home Health Care News. “The magnitude of that reliance is in some ways surprising, but in some ways not.” In terms of the home care industry, more than 27% of workers are immigrants, according to the Health Affairs study. For an industry that is already struggling to find and keep caregivers, proposed legislation that prohibits or restricts immigration could have major impacts, according to Zallman, an assistant professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and director of research for the Institute for Community Health at the Cambridge Health Alliance.

CMS Developing Hospice Quality Assessment Tool

The U.S Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is in the process of developing a mandatory new comprehensive quality reporting tool to replace the current Hospice Item Set measures. Though initially the agency will use the tool, known as the Hospice Evaluation and Assessment Reporting Tool (HEART), exclusively for quality reporting, CMS in time will likely use the tool to inform new payment models, according to the agency. As with other mandatory CMS quality reporting programs, hospices could see payment reductions of up to 2% for failing to report HEART data after the tool and associated requirements are finalized. CMS has delayed release of the tool because the agency switched to a different vendor midstream. The agency and its vendor, ABT Associates, are actively seeking comment from hospice providers about how the tool can best meet their reporting needs while trying to avoid excess regulatory burden.