The Home Health Planning Improvement Act of 2015 (S. 578) was introduced in the Senate earlier this week by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The bill seeks to allow health care professionals other than physicians to sign home health plans of care. S.578 is identical to legislation that was introduced in the last Congress – and previous Congresses – by Senator Collins, Senator Schumer, and other supporters.
Senator Collins, who became Chair of the Senate Aging Committee at the start of this Congress, has been one of the home care and hospice community’s biggest legislative champions. She has spoken at a record sixteen consecutive March on Washingtons. It was at NAHC’s 2013 March on Washington that Senator Collins pledged to reintroduce the Home Health Care Planning and Improvement Act during the 113th Congress, which she did along with Senator Schumer in July of that year.
S.578 will allow physician assistants (PA), nurse practitioners (NP), clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives to order home health services for Medicare beneficiaries.Currently, Medicare recognizes PAs, NPs, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives as authorized providers who are able to perform many services for Medicare beneficiaries, including ordering nursing home care and prescribing medicine. They are not, however, able to order less costly and less intrusive home health care services.
Seniors and disabled citizens who see these medical professionals as their primary care providers often need an extra office visit with an unknown physician in order to get the care they need. In such situations, this impediment merely amounts to an extra administrative and paperwork burden, and creates an unnecessary step that fails to recognize current training and scope-of-practice guidelines. As a result, patients in need of home health care services are either placed in more expensive health care settings, or experience a delay in receiving the care they need. This legislation will relieve that burden for our most vulnerable citizens.
NAHC strongly supports this legislation, and encourages all of its members to contact their lawmakers and urge them to support this legislation.
Additionally, the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations sent a letter to Senators Collins and Schumer stating that:
“This critical change would improve access to important home health care services, and potentially prevent additional hospital, sub-acute care facility and nursing home admissions—all of which are costly to the consumer, the taxpayer and Medicare…
The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act would help to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries in need of home health care services whose providers are nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants would be able to directly access home health care by referral from their providers. This bill would provide beneficiaries continued access to care and increase the likelihood that they would experience better health and a higher quality of life. Additionally, outside experts assessed the impact of the bill earlier last year and projected a Medicare savings of $7.1 million in 2015 and up to a ten-year savings of $252.6 million. This analysis also notes the potential to reduce beneficiary admissions to and lengths of stay in institutional settings under the policy change.”
To take action and urge your lawmakers to support S. 578, please click here.
To read the Leadership Council’s full letter to Senator Collins and Schumer, please click here.