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Testimonials

In the various roles he has undertaken through the years, Val J. Halamandaris has been a singular driving force behind the policy and program initiatives resulting in the recognition of home health care as a viable alternative to institutionalization. His dedication to consumer advocacy, which enhances the quality of life and dignity of those receiving home health care, merits VNA HealthCare Group’s highest recognition and deepest respect. 

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VNA HealthCare Group

I have the highest respect for them, especially for the nurses, aides and therapists, who devote their lives to caring for people with disabilities, the infirm and dying Americans.  There are few more noble professions.

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President Barack Obama

Home health care agencies do such a wonderful job in this country helping people to be able to remain at home and allowing them to receive services

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U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Chair, Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee

Home care is a combination of compassion and efficiency.  It is less expensive than institutional care...but at the same time it is a more caring, human, intimate experience, and therefore it has a greater human element...it’s a big mistake not to try to maximize it and find ways to give people the home care option over either nursing homes, hospitals or other institutions

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Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

Medicaid covers long-term care, but only for low-income families.  And Medicare only pays for care that is connected to a hospital discharge....our health care system must cover these vital services...[and] we should promote home-based care, which most people prefer, instead of the institutional care that we emphasize now.

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Former U.S. Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-CD)

We need incentives to...keep people in home health care settings...It’s dramatically less expensive than long term care.

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U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

 

Home care is clearly the wave of the future. It’s clearly where patients want to be cared for. I come from an ethnic family and when a member of our family is severely ill, we would never consider taking them to get institutional care. That’s true of many families for both cultural and financial reasons. If patients have a choice of where they want to be cared for, where it’s done the right way, they choose home.

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Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services

A couple of years ago, I spent a little bit of time with the National Association for Home Care & Hospice and its president, Val J. Halamandaris, and I was just blown away. What impressed me so much was that they talked about what they do as opposed to just the strategies of how to deal with Washington or Sacramento or Albany or whatever the case may be. Val is a fanatic about care, and it comes through in every way known to mankind. It comes through in the speakers he invites to their events; it comes through in all the stuff he shares.

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Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence

Val’s home care organization brings thousands of caregivers together into a dynamic organization that provides them with valuable resources and tools to be even better in their important work. He helps them build self-esteem, which leads to self-motivation.

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Mike Vance, former Dean of Disney and author of Think Out of the Box

Val is one of the greatest advocates for seniors in America. He goes beyond the call of duty every time.

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Arthur S. Flemming, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare

Val has brought the problems, the challenges, and the opportunities out in the open for everyone to look at. He is a visionary pointing the direction for us. 

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Margaret (Peg) Cushman, Professor of Nursing and former President of the Visiting Nurses Association

Although Val has chosen to stay in the background, he deserves much of the credit for what was accomplished both at the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, where he was closely associated with me and at the House Select Committee on Aging, where he was Congressman Claude Pepper’s senior counsel and closest advisor. He put together more hearings on the subject of aging, wrote more reports, drafted more bills, and had more influence on the direction of events than anyone before him or since.

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Frank E. Moss, former U.S. Senator

Val’s most important contribution is pulling together all elements of home health care and being able to organize and energize the people involved in the industry.

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Frank E. Moss, former U.S. Senator

Anyone working on health care issues in Congress knows the name Val J. Halamandaris.

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Kathleen Gardner Cravedi, former Staff Director of the House Select Committee on Aging

Without your untiring support and active participation, the voices of people advocating meaningful and compassionate health care reform may not have been heard by national leaders.

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Michael Sullivan, Former Executive Director, Indiana Association for Home Care

All of us have been members of many organizations and NAHC is simply the best there is. NAHC aspires to excellence in every respect; its staff has been repeatedly honored as the best in Washington; the organization lives by the highest values and has demonstrated a passionate interest in the well-being of patients and providers.

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Elaine Stephens, Director of Home Care of Steward Home Care/Steward Health Systems and former NAHC C

Home care increasingly is one of the basic building blocks in the developing system of long-term care.  On both economic and recuperative bases, home health care will continue to grow as an essential service for individuals, for families and for the community as a whole.

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Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

NCOA is excited to be part of this great event and honored to have such influential award winners in the field of aging.

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National Council of Aging

Health care at home…is something we need more of, not less of.  Let us make a commitment to preventive and long-term care.  Let us encourage home care as an alternative to nursing homes and give folks a little help to have their parents there.

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Former President Bill Clinton

Hospice Action Alert: Urge Congress to Reject Inclusion of Hospice Under the Medicare Advantage Benefit Package

Comments Due to Congress by January 26
January 12, 2016 04:06 PM

As previously reported in the December 29, 2015, edition of NAHC Report (available here), the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance released a white paper on chronic care titled, “Bipartisan Chronic Care Working Group Policy Options Document,” summarizing key policy options the Committee is considering to improve care for the millions of Americans managing chronic illness.

One of the policies under consideration by the Committee is requiring Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to offer the hospice benefit provided under traditional Medicare. This is not a new consideration; in late 2013, MedPAC initiated discussion on the advisability of incorporating hospice as part of the MA benefit package, and MedPAC has since voted to recommend that legislation be enacted that would incorporate hospice coverage under MA. MedPAC’s rationale is based on the following:

  • Concerns about the complexity of current coverage rules for MA patients that elect hospice;
  • The desire for greater symmetry in Medicare coverage regardless of whether a beneficiary receives Medicare under fee-for-service, through an accountable care organization (ACO) or through a MA plan;
  • The belief that MA plans should have full responsibility for coverage of Medicare benefits, including responsibility for coverage of all care delivered at the end of life; and
  • The possibility that MA plans may be willing to offer additional services to patients who elect hospice – such as concurrent care – that is not available under standard Medicare coverage.

In December, the Bipartisan Chronic Care Working Group of the Senate Finance Committee issued the Policy Options Document that indicates the group is considering requiring MA plans to offer the hospice benefit as part of their package of services. The options paper indicates that if legislative action is taken to mandate this change, the MA five-star quality measurement system would need to be updated to include measures associated with hospice care. The working group’s rationale for considering this change is that the current structure for MA enrollees electing hospice care leads to either a disruption in care or fragmented care delivery.

This proposal by MedPAC and the Bipartisan Chronic Care Working Group raises significant concerns for hospice providers and beneficiary advocates; among them are the following:

  • Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in MA that elect hospice will no longer have a choice of the hospice provider that will care for them in their final days of life;
  • Hospices currently provide a wide array of services to patients and their loved ones – a number of which are not reimbursed by Medicare. It is anticipated that in most cases MA plans will contract with Medicare certified providers to supply hospice services. In an effort to keep contracted rates low, MA plans may be incentivized to limit the services they contract with the hospices to provide, or may attempt to contract for hospice care on different terms and/or at significantly reduced rates. As a result, beneficiaries may not receive a hospice benefit equivalent to that which they would receive under fee-for-service;
  • Similarly, many hospices provide additional services beyond the scope of the hospice benefit (such as massage, music, and other therapies) because they have proven value in improving the quality of life for many patients on hospice. Continuing availability of these services may be at risk if hospice services are provided by way of MA plans;
  • Medicare hospice eligibility rules require that a patient be determined to be terminally ill with a prognosis of six months or less if the disease follows its normal course. Tensions could arise between the MA plans and a contracted hospice relative to whether a patient does or does not meet Medicare’s eligibility requirements;
  • Additionally, the hospice per diem payment rate is intended to cover all care determined to be reasonable and necessary for the comfort and palliation of the terminal illness and related conditions. Financial incentives may lead MA plans to shift responsibility for unrelated services to a contracted hospice provider; and
  • The Medicare Hospice Benefit is currently undergoing significant change. Starting on January 1, 2016, hospices are paid one of two payment rates for RHC depending on how long the patient has been on hospice care. There remain uncertainties about the impact of these changes on the delivery of hospice care, as well as about potential additional changes in the hospice program. These uncertainties will impact hospices’ willingness to enter into contracts with MA plans, particularly if the contracts do not, at a minimum, cover costs.

Congress should reject current efforts to incorporate hospice as part of the MA benefit package. If inclusion of hospice under MA is to be considered, thorough analysis of the impact of such a change should first be conducted. If and when Congress contemplates inclusion of hospice under the MA benefit package, it should include the following safeguards:

  • MA beneficiaries that are determined to be terminally ill and eligible for the hospice benefit should be given the option of immediately disenrolling from MA so that they may elect hospice from the provider of their choice;
  • MA plans should be required to contract with Medicare-certified hospices based on fee-for-service benefit and payment terms and levels;
  • The hospice inter-disciplinary group (IDG) should be the ultimate authority on hospice eligibility, the hospice plan of care, and determinations of which conditions are related to the terminal diagnosis. Likewise, the IDG should determine the conditions that are not related to the terminal and related conditions that should be covered by the MA plan; and
  • The quality and coordination of care as patient’s transition to end-of-life care should be closely assessed as part of the MA plan satisfaction ratings.

Beneficiaries entering MA are, as a general rule, anticipating their needs for curative care rather than end-of-life care. Decisions about end-of-life care are deeply personal and of great significance to patients and their families. When a beneficiary is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he or she should retain the right to determine what level of care to pursue and under what provider’s care.

NAHC urges you to take the following actions on this issue:

  1. Email your senators about the importance of rejecting the consideration. You can do so using NAHC’s Legislative Action Center by clicking here.
  2. Submit comments on the consideration to the Senate Finance Committee.Comments are due by January 26. The working group is requesting that any individuals, researchers, businesses, organizations, or advocacy groups that are interested in submitting comments – specific to the content and questions outlined in this document –send a letter or an email to the Senate Finance Committee by January 26, 2016. Instructions for submission are found on page 5 of the document (available here); the discussion of MA and hospice begins on page 8.

NAHC is compiling comments. Stay tuned to NAHC Report for additional coverage of this issue and the working group’s considerations.

 

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