Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act Reintroduced in the House
NAHC praises the introduction of this important, bipartisan legislation in the House
March 10, 2015 10:22 AM
Following the introduction of the Home Health Care Planning and Improvement Act in the U.S. Senate two weeks ago, a companion bill—H.R. 1342—was introduced by Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) and 15 bipartisan cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, March 6. The House bill, which is identical to the Senate bill and legislation introduced last Congress, would allow certain health care professionals other than physicians to sign home health plans of care. For more on the bill’s introduction in the Senate, please see NAHC Report, February 27, 2015.
“Home health care allows patients more control over their health care, and provides a sense of comfort, familiarity, and normalcy for the patient and their families. I know this first hand, because it’s what my parents chose. And it’s not just a win for the patient. Home-based care benefits Medicare as a whole. Having people recover at home is less expensive than in a hospital or nursing home,” Walden said about the identical legislation last year. Congressman Walden has supported this legislation in past years as well, including in the 113th Congress, when the bill received 162 cosponsors in the U.S. House. The large number of previous cosponsors can be partially credited to NAHC members, who urged their elected officials to support the legislation through NAHC’s Legislative Action Center.
NAHC President Val Halamandaris praised the legislation and thanked Congressman Walden and the other cosponsors for their efforts. “Studies have shown that the expanded use of these professionals can result in dramatic decreases in expensive hospitalizations and nursing home stays,” said Val Halamandaris. “We appreciate the outstanding leadership Congressman Walden and the bill’s cosponsors have shown in helping make home and community based services more readily available to our nation’s elderly population and those with disabilities.”
Like the Senate legislation, H.R. 1342 would allow nurse practitioners (NPs), clinical nurse specialists (CNS), certified nurse midwives (CNMs), and physicians’ assistants (PAs), to certify and make changes to home health plans of treatment. NPs, CNSs, CNMs, and PAs—particularly in rural or underserved areas—are sometimes more familiar with particular cases than the attending physician.
Non-physician health professionals are playing an increasingly important role in the delivery of our nation’s health care, especially in rural and underserved areas. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) continue to prohibit non-physician health professionals from certifying home health services to Medicare beneficiaries.
Those who use non-physician medical professionals as their primary care providers often face the burden of an additional office visit with an unknown physician in order to receive home health care. This is an unnecessary and burdensome requirement that is inconsistent with current training and scope-of-practice guidelines. As a result, patients in need of home care can face unnecessary expenses or delays in seeking the care they need.
Additionally, this legislation will help ensure the reimbursement of home health agencies in a timely manner and prevent interruption in the care to the beneficiary, because non-physician health care professionals are sometimes more readily available than physicians to expedite the processing of paperwork.
Outside experts agree that this change in non-physician authority is important to meet the demand for care. The Institute of Medicine has recommended that NPs and CNSs be allowed to certify eligibility for Medicare home health services. In addition, outside experts believe the legislation will result in cost savings. According to a letter from the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations sent to U.S. Senators, “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.”
NAHC encourages its members to utilize the Legislative Action center to contact their members of Congress to support the bill. NAHC remains positive that Congress will support this bipartisan approach to improving non-institutionalized care delivery and will continue our efforts building strong support for both the House and Senate bills in the coming months.
To take action and urge your lawmakers to support this important legislation, please click here.
To make the case directly to your elected officials and their staff in person, please join other home health and hospice advocates from around the country at this year’s March on Washington on March 24th in Washington, D.C.
Please click here to register to attend.