New Website Created on State Health Care Payment Law Implementation

The state has announced a new web page on that will serve as a clearinghouse for information as the state implements the new health care cost containment law signed by Governor Patrick in August.

The site will host important announcements about the new law as well as information on Grants & Demonstrations,Stakeholder Meetings andBoards, Commissions & Task Forces. 

Thanks to the advocacy efforts of the Home Care Alliance, the association has been given the authority to name members on the “Task Force Related to Behavioral, Substance Use Disorder, and Mental Health Treatment”  as Governor Deval Patrick, joined by Secretary Jay Gonzalez, Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, Rep. Steven Walsh, Rep. Ronald Mariano,  Attorney General Martha Coakley, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, signs the health care cost containment bill in Nurses' Hall. well as the “Commission to Review Public Payer Reimbursement Rates.”

The website also announces meetings to inform stakeholders of progress and potential opportunities related to the new law so those interested are encouraged to check the site regularly and stay tuned to our blog for other important updates.

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HCA Starts Congressional Letter on Home Care Moratorium

Thanks to the advocacy efforts of the Home Care Alliance and the cooperation of legislative home care champions, Congressmen Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) are circulating a letter to be sent to federal Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging her agency to utilize the authority given in the Affordable Care Act to establish a temporary and targeted moratorium on new home health providers to control fraud and abuse in troubled areas.

Alliance staff drafted the letter, which is now a bipartisan effort that is seeking support from Congressional representatives from across the country. HCA has sent direct letters to Secretary Sebelius in the past and has supported drives by national associations towards getting a temporary and targeted moratorium established. The fact that the entire industry has been punished for the actions of a few agencies in a few areas of the US has driven the repeated attempts at lobbying HHS. This moratorium action certainly would not halt fraudulent and abusive practices, but it does help to contain the problem, especially in areas that have seen dramatic growth in the number of certified home health agencies.

The Alliance strongly encourages its members and supporters to contact their representative and urge them to sign on. Let your federal representative offices know that they should contact Congressman McGovern’s office to sign on.

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Register for Great Events in October

October is a busy month for events at the Home Care Alliance with some unique opportunities to hear insight from state government on their activity around care transitions, hospice/palliative care initiatives, and electronic health record implementation.

The month kicks off with an Executive Breakfast with Madeleine Biondolillo, MD on October 4. Dr. Biondolillo  is the Director of the Mass DPH Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality, which is responsible for such efforts as improving care transitions, implementing new End Of Life Care Initiatives, and establishing a health care workforce center.

The Alliance is also pleased to host a free event at the VNA of Boston on October 5th for home health IT personnel as well as other interested agency leaders and staff on the state’s “Last Mile” Implementation regarding electronic health records. This event will involve a presentation and discussion with Lawrence Stuntz who is the Director of the Massachusetts eHealth Institute, the Commonwealth’s entity for health care innovation, technology, and competitiveness. Although there is no cost, HCA is requiring registration.

To see our other events for this month, including informative webinars and meetings, check out HCA’s calendar of events.

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The Alliance’s Colleen Bayard on the the Affordable Care Act

Colleen Bayard, the Alliance’s director of regulatory & clinical and regulatory affairs, spoke to WWLP News 22 this week about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on seniors in Massachusetts.

BOSTON (WWLP) – Government health officials say that President Obama’s national health care reform law is saving Massachusetts seniors big bucks.

Federal officials say the 2010 law has helped save Massachusetts seniors more than $76 million on medication bills this year.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicessays in the first eight months of this year, the Affordable Care Act has saved seniors in Medicare’s “donut hole” about $610 dollars. Previously, when seniors were in this “donut hole” they would go from making copayments for their drugs to paying 100 percent of the cost.

The law gives them significant discounts.

“There’s actually extra funding for medications for seniors,” said Colleen Bayard, the Clinical Affairs Director for the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts.

“They may not have enough money for their medications and it becomes unaffordable, but I think they’re trying to, they made changes with the medication in Medicare D to help with that.”

The average savings for a Massachusetts resident with Medicare will be $5,000. People with high prescriptions costs will save more than $18,000 from 2010 to 2022.

Don Berwick, MD heads 2013 Northeast Home Health Leadership Summit Line-Up

Its not too soon to make plans to be in Boston on Jan 22-24, 2013 for the  2013 Northeast Home Health Leadership Summit.  For your consideration:

  • Our theme this year is “The Magic of Leadership”.
  • We will be returning to The Colonnade Hotel, 120 Huntington Ave. Boston – across from the Prudential Tower.
  • Our keynote speaker is Don Berwick, MD, former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Other speakers include:  Dr. William Thomas on “Elderhood Rising: The Dawn of a New World Age and Sarah McKinnon on “From a Good Boss to a Great Leader.  Bates Communications will be presenting “Speak Like a CEO” (a personal consultation will be available on Day 2 for an additional fee); and we have some other “magical” presenters in the lineup.
  • The pre-conference session will focus on utilizing data as a management and marketing tool.
  • The Summit website at has hotel information up now and registration information shortly.

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New Reports on Hospital Readmissions from STAAR and DHCFP

The Massachusetts State Action on Avoidable Readmission (STAAR) project has published a new report on the Patient Care Link website. The report – Reducing Readmissions: Highlights from the Massachusetts STAAR Cross Continuum Teams  – includes improvement stories from 22 of the 50 cross continuum teams working on reducing readmission.

Available on the Preventing Avoidable Readmissions page of the MA Coalition to Prevent Medical Errors website is a digest of customizable tools that eleven of the teams have made available free of charge. The STAAR work and these reports were funded by a grant from the Commonwealth Fund.

Also available from the state’s Division of Healthcare Finance & Policy (DHCFP) is a pair of new health care cost trend reports that conclude preventable hospitalizations have slowed, although preventable emergency department use has slightly risen.

The first report states that preventable hospitalizations are not driving cost growth, but remains a significant percentage of overall health care expenditures. Some of the more notable findings indicate that nearly half of preventable hospital admissions are for people aged 75 and older and 64 percent are for those over 65 years of age.

The report suggests something of no surprise to home care agencies, which is that managing chronic illnesses between non-acute health care settings is the best approach to combating the issue. However, the report further states the fee-for-service pay structure remains a barrier to that method working efficiently. Demographic influences aside from age were also noted as those lower income and some minority groups were more likely to receive costly and inefficient care that led to a higher rate of preventable hospitalizations among those groups.

As for the DHCFP report on hospital emergency department efficiency, the number of preventable ED visits rose 6.3 percent from 2006 to 2010 to a total of more than 1.17 million. Preventable or avoidable visits, the report continues, accounted for more than 45 percent of total ED visit costs.

To see both DHCFP reports, visit their  Cost Trends page.

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HHQI Campaign to be Revived

The now dormant Home Health Quality Improvement (HHQI) National Campaign will be relaunched with a free webinar for interested industry participants on  September 18 at 2:00 – 3:30 pm.   The webinar will be repeated from 4:00 – 5:30 and then posted for permanent viewing at the HHQI website:

The HHQI is a federal effort to improve quality through the dissemination and use of  evidence-based educational tools, individualized data reports and a variety of networking opportunities for home health and cross-setting providers.

The September 18th Webinar will detail  campaign enhancements and feature accounts of how home health providers have applied HHQI resources in the past to make an impact on their patients.