November COVID, CMS and Home Health Industry Announcements
To keep you informed on news, innovation, education and advocacy issues around home-based care, we’ve pulled together these important headlines.
November saw another surge of COVID cases across the country and increased calls for relief among care providers for aging and at risk populations. However, changes in testing and the announcements surrounding potential vaccines offered hope for combatting the virus.
New research results were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looking at COVID-19 in the home setting. 88% of the home health patients sampled in the report were discharged without any adverse health effects.
COVID has sparked an interest in home-based care among the public. New surveys show impressive results.
At-Home Coronavirus Test
The FDA has signed off on the first at-home coronavirus test. The test allows citizens to conduct their own rapid test at home with a self-collected nasal swab. Agencies providing home-based care are looking to use these tests as well to screen care providers and assist homebound patients who may need a test. This latest test is just one of many testing tools available, but the most exciting announcements surround two potential vaccines.
Moderna and Pfizer have released promising early results for coronavirus vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be 95% effective and Moderna reports 94% effectiveness at preventing COVID-19. Both vaccines have to be kept at extremely low temperatures, which will create challenges in the delivery process, but many states are already drafting distribution plans. Early policies out of Texas indicate that workers in long term care settings and those serving high-risk, vulnerable populations will be among the first to receive the vaccines.
CMS continues to take action to help ease regulation barriers and encourage the development of new payment models and value based care arrangements.
CMS confirmed it is moving forward with a plan to fully eliminate RAPs by 2021. January will start a transition year and in 2022, RAPS will be replaced with a one-time Notice of Admission (NOA). Like 2021 RAPs, NOAs will have a submission deadline of five days from the start of care. If the deadlines are missed by a single day, agencies will incur stiff financial penalties of 20%.
Earlier this year, CMS launched “Care Compare” to replace older, less centralized tools. Starting December first, CMS will fully transition to Care Compare and retire the Home Health Compare tool. They have encouraged providers to update any links on their website to the new tool.
Improper Payment Reduction
Since 2016, the home health market has made significant progress towards reducing improper payments under Medicare. Improper payments have dropped by an estimated $5.9 billion.
Stark Law Changes
CMS issued a final rule updating the regulations for the Stark Law to allow more value-based payment systems to thrive. Agencies that are interested in participating in value-based systems are urged to carefully review the rules and confirm their agreements comply with the new policies.
New Toolkit from CMS
A new toolkit has been launched by CMS designed to aid state Medicaid agencies. The toolkit provides states with examples of innovative state models and best practices. The goal of the toolkit is to help inform states’ efforts to strengthen their infrastructure, develop home and community-based services and decrease Medicaid’s reliance on institutional long term care.
Acute Hospital Care at Home Program
The new Acute Hospital Care at Home program launched this month by CMS grants hospitals regulatory flexibilities to allow more patients to be treated in the home rather than in a hospital setting. These measures serve an urgent need to help hospitals address capacity challenges and protect vulnerable patients. Hospitals are leveraging the expertise of home health and hospice agencies as they position themselves to take advantage of CMS’ new flexibilities.
CMS has also provided coverage and reimbursement options for monoclonal antibody infusion treatments to fight COVID-19.
OUR HOME HEALTH CUSTOMERS IN THE NEWS
Homecare Homebase is proud to serve some of the best agencies in home-based care. Read about the November news from our Home Health customers.
Bayada Home Health Care
Home Health Care News highlighted Bayada Home Health Care’s proactive approach to home health services for long term care facilities. Izzy Porter, a senior living program manager described how her team has strengthened partnerships during COVID-19. Read the full article here.
The Pennant Group
Home Health Care News discussed the COVID-19 vaccine with Pennant CEO Daniel Walker. Walker outlined promising aspects of the news and explained the execution challenges that need to be addressed before the vaccine can be ready for distribution. He also addressed upcoming opportunities for The Pennant Group in 2021. Read the full article here.
The LHC Group was in the news multiple times in November. On November 5th Home Health Care News reported that the company announced the return of 93.3 million dollars in federal relief back to the government. LHC Group President Joshua Proffitt stated: “We believe returning these taxpayer dollars is the right thing for us to do and that these funds can best be used elsewhere with assisting with the ongoing response to the pandemic.” Read the full article here.
In mid-November, The LHC Group spoke with Home Health Care News about the efforts the company is taking to reach a “tri-level of care” in the home for home health, hospice and personal care. LHC also addressed partnership growth with DCEs and ACOs. Read the full article here.
Addus HomeCare Corporation announced their finalized agreement to acquire Queen City Hospice, LLC and Miracle City Hospice for $192 million. The acquisition was driven by Addus’ growth strategy in the hospice and home health markets. Read the full article here.
Home Health Care News followed up with Addus to learn more about the company’s plans for mergers and acquisitions. Addus wants to get its clinical side up to about 25% of its business. Read the full article here.
- “FDA Signs Off on First At-Home Coronavirus Test” by Robert Holly Published by Home Health Care News on November 18, 2020.
- “Hundreds ‘Hundreds of Millions of Dollars’ Being Put Toward At-Home Testing Efforts, HHS Says” by Andrew Donlan Published by Home Health Care News on November 16, 2020.
- “States Starting to Prioritize Home Health, Hospice Workers in Vaccination Plans” by Robert Holly Published by Home Health Care News on November 24, 2020.
- “Report: Interest Grows for Health Care at Home” Published by HomeCare News on November 12, 2020.
- “COVID-19 Patients Discharged from Home Health Care Often Have ‘Excellent’ Symptom Improvement, Functional Outcomes” by Robert Holly Published by Home Health Care News on November 23, 2020.
- “CMS to Retire Home Health Compare Next Month” by Robert Holly Published by Home Health Care News on November 23, 2020.
- “CMS Launches Toolkit to Enhance Medicaid-Based Homecare” Published by HomeCare News on November 10, 2020.
- “CMS Launches ‘Unprecedented’ Hospital-at-Home Strategy to Manage Latest COVID-19 Surge” by Joyce Famakinwa Published by Home Health Care News on November 25, 2020.
- “Final Rule Revamps Stark Law Restrictions” Published by HomeCare News on November 23, 2020.
- “CMS’s Stark Law Changes Could Mean More Value-Based Business for Home Health Operators” by Joyce Famakinwa Published by Home Health Care News on November 29, 2020.
- “CMS Takes Steps to Ensure Medicare Beneficiary Access to COVID-19 Antibody Treatment” Published by HomeCare News on November 13, 2020.
- “Late RAPS Could Trigger Immediate 20% Payment Reduction in 2021” by Robert Holly Published by Home Health Care News on November 1, 2020.
- “An ‘Awkward Transition Year’: Why 2021 Will Look Different in Home Health with New RAP Adjustments” by Andrew Donlan Published by Home Health Care News on November 22, 2020.
- “CMS: Home Health Improper Payments Down by $5.9B Since 2016” by Robert Holly Published by Home Health Care News on November 17, 2020.
Home Health Customers in the News
- “How Home Health Agencies Can Build Stronger Relationships with Senior Living Operators” by Andrew Donlan Published by Home Health Care News on November 17, 2020.
- “LHC Group Sees Progress with ACOs, Direct-Contracting Entities” by Andrew Donlan Published by Home Health Care News on November 19, 2020.
- “‘These Funds Can Best Be Used Elsewhere’: LHC Group Returns $93.3M in Federal Relief” by Joyce Famakinwa Published by Home Health Care News on November 5, 2020.
- “[UPDATED]Addus Purchases PE-Backed Queen City Hospice for $192 Million” by Jim Parker Published by Hospice News on November 11, 2020.
- “‘The Clock Is Ticking’: What Addus’ $192M Hospice Deal Means for Home Health M&A” by Andrew Donlan Published by Home Health Care News on November 19, 2020.