Moratorium on Home Health Agencies Extended by CMS, MassHealth

Both the state and federal governments are extending moratoria on new home health providers.

MassHealth will be extending the six-month moratorium on new home health providers, which will become effective on August 12 for an additional six months, according to MassHealth. The Home Care Alliance has been supportive of the measure and has collaborated with the state Medicaid office on program integrity efforts, but attempts to kick-start a state oversight policy for home care agencies have been unsuccessful.

In a letter requesting the initial stoppage on new providers from Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders to federal HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, it was noted that home health spending under MassHealth increased 41% from fiscal years 2014 to 2015. The letter continued to explain that 85% of that growth was driven by providers that were new to the MassHealth program since 2013.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they will be not only  extending their temporary moratoria on enrollment of specific locations within Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, but will also be broadening moratorium across each of those states.

Below is an excerpt from the Federal Register with CMS’ reasoning in announcing the extension and expansion:

CMS has determined that the factors initially evaluated to implement the temporary moratoria show that a high risk of fraud, waste, and abuse exists beyond the current moratoria areas, which may suggest that a high risk of fraud, waste, or abuse exists due largely to circumvention of the moratoria by some providers and suppliers.

The primary means of circumvention includes enrolling a new practice location outside of a moratorium area and servicing beneficiaries within the moratorium area. Additionally, CMS has continued to see areas of saturation that exceed the national average in the moratoria states. As a result, CMS, in consultation with the OIG, has determined that it is necessary to expand the temporary moratoria on a statewide basis, by implementing temporary moratoria on all newly enrolling HHAs in the remaining counties in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas, and on all newly enrolling Part B non-emergency ground ambulance suppliers in the remaining counties in Texas, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, in order to combat fraud, waste, or abuse in those states.

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One Care Program Extended Through 2018

MassHealth announced that the One Care Program for individuals dually eligible for Medicare and MassHealth and between the ages of 21 and 64 has been extended through 2018.

Part of this new agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is that MassHealth will be accepting letters of intent (LOI) from entities interested in becoming One Care Plans effective January 1, 2018.

Beginning in 2013, the One Care program included several plans that were whittled down to what is now Commonwealth Care Alliance and Tufts Health Plan, which began participation in the initiative as Network Health. Funding issues were at the center of why other plans could not sustain covering One Care enrollees, although adjustments have been worked out that are intended to help plans better predict costs and assess financial risk. Fallon Total Care was the latest to drop their participation in June 2015.

Out of 103,041 eligible individuals, MassHealth reports that 13,038 are covered by the two One Care Plans. Commonwealth Care Alliance covers the bulk of that total with 10,050 enrollees as of June 1, 2016. According to the latest enrollment report, more than 30,000 individuals have “opted out” of the One Care Program.

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What the Senate’s Economic Development Bill did for Home Care

Late Thursday night, the Senate wrapped up debate on more than 200 amendments to legislation promoting economic and workforce development and the Home Care Alliance was active on several issues.

Senate Bill 2423, “An Act relative to job creation, workforce development and infrastructure investment,” created a a special commission to investigate and report on barriers to meeting labor market demands in the commonwealth. The commission’s report can include a broad range of industries, but according to the legislation, it must consist of cyber-security, high technology and biotechnology, early education and care, home care and home health. Despite this focus, the “labor commission,” as it was labeled, did not have a member that represented the home care industry.

Working together with the Home Care Aide Council, and Senator Patricia D. Jehlen’s office, an amendment was adopted to get a home care agency representative on that commission. If the Senate’s legislation advances and is passed, this commission will be shining a light on home care workforce issues on a level of importance that places it with other industries.

The other amendment, which was of great concern, was an effort that would have created a publicly-available registry with the personal information of home care workers. It was the same provision that showed up in legislation and FY17 budget amendments – all of which were defeated.

In this particular iteration, the result was a redrafted amendment to create a registry of home care workers that does NOT include personal information, but rather certifications and whether that worker has ever committed abuse, mistreatment or neglect of an elderly patient or consumer.

The Alliance thanks the many agencies that weighed in quickly with their state senator by phone and email on both of these matters.

The Senate’s legislation now must pass a conference committee process where differences between S.2423 and the House’s version of the bill must be worked out.

Further updates will be shared when they become available.

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Advocacy Alert: Gain Support for Home Care in Workforce Development Bill

Today, the State Senate will be discussing more than 200 amendments to Senate Bill 2423, “An Act relative to job creation, workforce development and infrastructure investment.”

The Home Care Alliance is actively advocating on the following issues and urge HCA members and advocates to contact their state senator by sending a message through our ADVOCACY CENTER and calling offices by using the talking points below.

If you do NOT know who represents you in the State Senate, please visit this site for assistance.

  • OPPOSE Amendment #136 – “Strengthening the Home Care Program”
    • Background: This amendment would create a publicly-available registry listing the personal information of home care workers.
    • The Home Care Alliance is opposed to allowing the public access to the personal information of home care workers proposed in this amendment, including full legal name, date of birth, home address and gender of these workers.
    • This information provides no benefit to consumers of home care services and no benefits to home care workers.
  • SUPPORT Amendment #148 – “Labor Commission Membership”
    • Background: Section 109 of S.2423 creates a special commission to investigate and report on barriers to meeting labor market demands in the commonwealth, including home care – however, there is no home care membership on the commission.
    • The Home Care Alliance supports placing a home care agency representative with knowledge of home care workforce on the Labor Commission.

If you have any questions, please contact James Fuccione at the Alliance.

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Governor Outlines Budget Vetoes, Slashes Pediatric Palliative Care

With $256 million in spending reductions, the Governor approved his final approved FY17 state budget and it’s now up to the House and Senate to now discuss overrides before formal sessions conclude at the end of July.

Among the items preserved was a $200,000 item for the Department of Higher Education that funds the Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Initiative. The Home Care Alliance is among a large group of stakeholders that advocates for funding that supports grants to teams of colleges, health care providers, and workforce investment boards to advance training and education for nurses and direct care workers.

The governor did, however, reduce the legislature’s funding recommendation for the pediatric palliative care network by $400,000. The remaining $1.8 million is essentially a level-funding from previous years. It was one of 303 line items that saw reduced funding.

The largest reduction the Governor recommended was a $17.8 million drop in Nursing Home Supplemental Rates. The House and conference committee had recommended a total of $337.9 million while the Senate had suggested $332.9 million, but the number being sent by the Governor back to the legislature currently sits at $330.1 million.

Details on the Governor’s FY17 budget can be found on the “Governor’s FY17 Vetoes” webpage.

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Home Care Commission Denied in Budget, Cuts Handed to Elder Services

The merits of protecting consumers, setting minimum standards for companies and agencies providing in-home care, and controlling state costs were not enough to advance a Home Care Oversight Commission through the state budget.

The state’s FY17 Conference Committee released their final budget proposal on behalf of the legislature after regrouping in light of declining revenue projections. The Home Care Commission, which was included in the Senate budget, but not in the House, had to survive a “conference committee” of House ma budget pie chart picand Senate budget leaders that negotiated a fiscal plan between the two sides.

With Massachusetts being one of only five states without state oversight of home health care, and also with a goal to place some standards on private-pay home care, the commission would have convened legislators, home health agencies, private-pay home care, state officials, consumer groups and trade associations to recommend solutions. The language stipulated that there be separate sets of recommendations for home health and private pay home care.

Elsewhere in the budget, the declining revenue projections filtered through to hit the elder services network. Based on FY16 spending levels, a $2 million cut was made to “Elder Home Care Purchased Services” and $2.6 million reduction in the “Elder Home Care Case Management and Administration” account.

Two pieces of good news came in that Elder Protective Service got a boost of $4.5 over FY16 spending and the Pediatric Palliative Care Network received a boost of $404,578, but the Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Initiative remained leveled out at $200,000.

More silver lining came with a $1 million pilot program to test expanding income eligibility standards for services ordered by Aging Service Access Points.

In terms of MassHealth line items, the expected trends continued with the conference committee reducing the “Fee-for-Service” account by $161.7 million while increasing the accounts tied to MassHealth Managed Care ($71.1 million) and MassHealth Senior Care ($160.4 million).

Nursing Home Supplemental Rates also saw a raise with $45 million over FY16 spending.

The $39.15 billion budget now moves to the Governor for final approval and any further updates will be shared as they become available.

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HCA Breaks Down MassHealth 1115 Waiver Proposal

Months of stakeholder meetings and public engagement by MassHealth has resulted in a long-awaited draft proposal that aims to completely restructure the state’s Medicaid program.

Known as the Section 1115 Waiver, the 90-plus page document outlines a possible multi-year agreement  with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The focus of the proposal is a move towards accountable care organizations (ACOs) and alternative payments while better addressing the needs of MassHealth members and putting in place a financially sustainable system of health care and support services.

Before the agreement can be made with CMS, however, there is a public comment period that runs until July 17th. The Home Care Alliance created a breakdown of the proposal so that members and advocates can better understand the key provisions.

MassHealth also provided a more basic fact sheet available on their 1115 Waiver Proposal webpage that also includes the full document and slide decks from previous public meetings.

The proposal attempts to seize an opportunity for new funding streams to support the creation of three types of ACOs that are required to partner with existing providers of behavioral health (BH) and long-term services and supports (LTSS). The state aims to rearrange provider and managed care relationships to set forth a better coordinated and integrated set of networks.

The first “pilot ACOs” are expected by MassHealth to come online later in 2016, while the full roll-out of the three ACO models, enhanced funding, and BH/LTSS integration will take place in October 2017.

The Alliance was appointed to several of the MassHealth stakeholder groups and plans to submit comments on the proposal on behalf of home care.

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