Advocate and Engage on PDGM

There are many ways that home health agencies will need to prepare their agencies for the radical changes coming from PDGM in January 2020. The Alliance is here to help.

Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its proposed rule for 2019 home health payment rates and policy changes, which includes significant provisions that will impact your organization, staff, and the patients you serve.

Between now and when the Patient Driven Grouping Model (PDGM) goes into effect on January 1, 2020, there are multiple ways that home health agencies will need to prepare their agencies for the radical change. (See Coding and Billing webinars coming in September, at the bottom of this page) At the same time, home care must take action to mitigate the impact of what PDGM will look like and how it will impact organizational viability.

Home care’s collective advocacy efforts have undeniably made a difference in the past, including putting a stop (at least in Massachusetts) to the Pre-Claim Review Demonstration and scrapping the Home Health Groupings Model thanks to more than 1,200 comments submitted to CMS last year. The more that CMS and lawmakers hear from home health professionals, the better our chances are at reducing the severe cuts that accompany PDGM in its proposed form.

As currently proposed, the 2020 rule will:

  • Reduce the Medicare base rate by 8.01% next year, which amounts to a $1.298 billion reduction in home health payments in 2020 alone. CMS proposes the reduction to account for anticipated changes in provider behavior that are unrelated to changes in patients served or services delivered that increase payments. This newly proposed “behavioral adjustment” reduction is up from the 6.42% reduction that CMS initially proposed, and the reduction would start before any actual behavioral changes occur.
  • Phasing out RAPS over 2020 with total elimination of RAPs in 2021. Next year, CMS proposed reducing RAPs from 60/50% to 20% for existing home health agencies (HHAs), while new agencies would get no RAP. CMS claims that RAPs create fraud risks.
  • Starting in 2021, a Notice of Admission (NOA) must be submitted Notice of Admission must be submitted within five days of the start of care. For every day late, CMS plans to reduce base-rate reimbursements for the unit of care.

The Solution: Pass S.433/H.R.2573

This month, Congress is in recess and back in the states, which presents a pivotal opportunity for home health industry professionals to engage with lawmakers about a key legislative priority – the Home Health Payment Innovation Act (S.433/H.R.2573).

This legislation prohibits CMS’s ability to adjust payment based on “behavioral assumptions” as opposed to observed evidence of behavioral changes, thus rescinding the proposed 8.01% adjustment.
Additionally, this important legislation would:

  1. Achieve full budget neutrality over the period of 2020-2029.
  2. Require behavioral adjustments based on real, actual changes in provider behavior in response to the new payment model.
  3. Permit a phase-in of rate adjustments (up or down) when an annual adjustment would be greater than 2 percent. However, the phase-in would operate to ensure full budget neutrality by 2029.

Email your Members of Congress

It’s not too late to get members of Congress informed and engaged on this important legislation. You can send an email directly from HCA’s member advocacy center.

At this point, Congressman Jim McGovern is the only member of the MA delegation signed on as a cosponsor. We must do better.

Fact Sheet: Senate 433 & HR 2573

Advocate in Person

Join home health industry advocates next month in Washington, D.C. for The Council of State Home Care Associations’ Third Annual Public Policy Summit and Advocacy Day!  On September 9, participate in a full-day summit featuring speakers including Hillary Loeffler, Director of the CMS’ Division of Home Health & Hospice.  On September 10, we be on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress to convey the critical need to pass S.433/H.R.2357.

Program details can be found here and registration information can be found at The Council’s website.

Submit Comments to CMS by September 9

Click here to submit comments to CMS in response to the 2020 proposed rule by 5:00 PM ET on Monday, September 9, 2019.

HCA and other industry organizations will provide more thorough comments on other problematic areas of the proposed rule. As previously stated, there is strength in numbers, so the more business-focused comments from providers – both large and small – are critical to giving CMS a full and clear picture of how devastating PDGM will be should it be implemented as proposed. Watch Update for draft comments.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Patient Legal Advocates

Information for clients/patients needing legal assistance around lost benefits or insurance.

The movement of many insured into “managed” environments has resulted in some questions to the HCA of MA regarding clients’ rights should home care services be terminated or suspended. Every Managed Care Organization (MCO) or Accountable Care Organization (ACO) – be they serving Medicare or Medicaid clients – has an obligation to have some form of patient (although not necessarily agency) internal appeal process. Agencies who are working with these organization should be versed in what these processes are.

For clients for whom the changes are threatening their well being, or seemingly discriminatory, or based on a pattern of inappropriate clinical decision making, there are legal services entities in this state who may be able to help. This list includes their names and contact information. Please note: these legal services entities will generally only take up a case if a client or, in some cases, a family member of a client calls. Keep this information on hand and share with any client who may need assistance.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

HCA and Northeastern University Partner on Nurse Symposium in June

These days, it seems like every week a new report is published sounding the alarm of a rapidly aging population across the United States and a shortage of workers prepared to care for this barreling silver tsunami. So much of the media coverage and research is focused on the paraprofessional workforce.

See for example, these reports/publications:

However, the Home Care Alliance member surveys indicate that the problem is broader than just a shortage of home health aides. The availability of a trained nursing workforce to meet a growing home-based health care delivery system is also emerging as an issue. Compounding challenges are impacting our ability as an industry to attract nursing students into home and community-based settings after nursing school.  That is why, on June 7th the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts and Northeastern’s School of Nursing are hosting a symposium on the very topic of building a home care nursing workforce at Northeastern University from 9AM – 3PM.

The event, titled: Nursing Call to Action: Building a Nursing Workforce to Deliver Complex Care at Home, will bring together more than 25 nursing schools and 25 home health providers for a day-long session. The program will kick-start a dialogue brainstorming new approaches for preparing and exposing Massachusetts nursing students for an increasingly intensive health delivery system in the home.

This event will look past the issue of reimbursement rates or ever-changing reforms at CMS, and instead will focus on four key areas:

  1. Identifying knowledge and skills gaps for LPN/RN new-grads and what changes can be made to address the gaps and develop competencies in executing highly complex services
  2. Elevating the visibility to nursing schools of the growing demand for home-based services and the need to expose students to possible careers in home care nursing
  3. Identifying strategies on recruitment as new-grads and experienced nurses prepare for possible careers in home care nursing
  4. Identifying barriers and strategies to get home health agencies more involved in clinical placements for nursing students

If you would like more information on this event, please reach out to Jake Krilovich. Please note: There is limited space for this event!

PDGM Fix Introduced, Advocacy Needed

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen Susan Collins (R-ME)  introduced what will be a most important legislative priority for HCA of MA this year.  Senate bill (S.433) will curtail the so-called $1 billion “behavioral adjustment” cut under the Patient Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) to which all of home health is transitioning in 2020.  Among, many other changes, PDGM will move home health from a 60 to a 30 day payment unit. This is the most significant change to home health payment since the Prospective Payment System was introduced in 2000.

The Congressional action that called for a home health payment overhaul required that the new payment model be budget neutral against current spending levels. However,  the legislation also allowed that CMS to consider “behavioral  adjustments” defined as industry actions that would be taken to increase payment under the new model, unrelated to patient case mix changes. CMS has used this authority very broadly to institute a payment adjustment in the first year of PDGM based on “assumptions” of behavioral changes, and that adjustment calls for a 6.42% base rate reduction, or a possible $1b reduction in payments.

S 433 would prohibit CMS from making any pre-rate change reductions based on assumptions and instead to phase in any adjustments (either up or down) based on observed evidence (i.e., data supported) changes in provider behavior. The objective would be to achieve budget neutrality by 2029. This later piece addresses concerns the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expressed regarding whether a similar bill introduced last session was truly budget neutral. S.433 also would allow Medicare advantage plans and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovations (CMMI) to waive the “confined to home”  provision when in the best interest of a Medicare beneficiary.

Regardless of the “behavioral adjustments,” the PDGM model is expected to have a tremendously varied impact state by state and agency by agency.  A significant amount of this impact is related to a Congressional  requirement that the payment model no longer use the volume of therapy as a payment level determinant.  (Something MEDPAC has been calling on CMS to do for years.)   The state of Florida, where therapy visits average 10.45 per episode of care is set to “lose” the most – projected at $141 million.  California on the other hand, where the average therapy utilization per episode was 5.76,  will be the largest gainer.  MA (need numbers from Tim)  Note: S 433 does not seek to make changes to the structure of the payment model that produces these changes.

It is important to reflect on CMS’ proposal in 2017, Home Health Groupings Model (HHGM) and how we arrived to where we are today. At the time, HHGM represented similar changes to the payment model, without soliciting industry feedback and some estimates predicting a 15% reduction in payments. As a result, the industry unified itself behind one message: that CMS withdraw its proposal and engage stakeholders to come up with an alternative. Upwards of 13,000 emails were sent to Congress from the industry, 49 members of the U.S. Senate and almost 160 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed onto letters to CMS echoing the request to withdraw HHGM. This was a remarkable show of mobilization by the industry and we’ll need it again to make modifications to PDGM.

At present there is no bill in the House, but it is expected that one will be forthcoming.  Strong early sign on support is critical to keeping this bill moving and HCA of MA will be urging members to contact the MA delegation to support S.433 and the companion house legislation to be introduced. Stay tuned for these advocacy alerts in our weekly newsletter and advocacy messages in the coming weeks.

HCA will also be hosting a number of member events to prepare for the payment transition.  While the full day PDGM programs in March in Northampton are sold out, there will be a high concentration of sessions on PDGM at the New England Home Care Conference and Trade Show in on June 5 -7 inn Falmouth. Watch here for more details.

In the meantime, send a message here to Senators Warren and Markey about the need for their support on this issue. 

Let’s do this home care – we cannot sustain $1 billion in cuts based on assumptions, not facts!

Talking Home Care: NAHC’s Calvin McDaniel on the 2018 Midterm Elections

Calvin McDaniel of NAHC joins us to talk about the implications of the 2018 Midterm Election on the home care industry.

Kelleher and McDaniel

On this week’s edition of Talking Home Care, we are joined by Calvin McDaniel, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). Calvin oversees NAHC’s legislative priorities on Capitol Hill, and collaborates with the Alliance and other state associations on shared, industry-wide priorities.

Our discussion recaps the 2018 Midterm Elections and what to expect in the 116th Congress, which will be seated in January 2019. Enjoy!


You may listen to the podcast by clicking the play button below, downloading it directly, or subscribing through iTunes or Google Play. (Length: 29 minutes; Size: 23.2 MB). If you enjoy it, please give us a five-star review so others can find it.

Host: Patricia Kelleher is the Executive Director of the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts.

GuestCalvin McDaniel, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).

2018 Midterm Elections Recap (Updated Monday, 11/19):

  • Democrats regained control of the US House of Representatives, gaining 37 seats so far and holding a majority of 233 seats to Republicans’ 198 seats.
  • Republicans held control of the US Senate picking up two seat as and expanding their Senate Majority to 52 seats to Democrats’ 47 seats. The Mississippi senate seat is heading toward a run-off election on November 27th.
  • On the state level: Democrats flipped nearly 400 state legislative seats nationwide, flipped seven Republican-held governor seats, and took full control of the legislature and Governors’ mansion in seven states.
  • Lastly, three states: Idaho, Nebraska and Utah voted to expand Medicaid. And a fourth state, Maine, elected a democratic governor, who will likely do the same.
  • Overall, nearly 116 million voters cast ballots, representing over 40% of eligible voters and represents the largest midterm voter turnout in 104 years.
  • It is expected that Representative Richard Neal (D-MA) will become the Chairman of House Ways & Means, and Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) will become the new Chairman of the Rules Committee. This greatly increases the Massachusetts’ Congressional Delegation influence on Capitol Hill.

The most important takeaway from our conversation with Calvin is that HCA members should prepare for an incredibly active two years of advocacy. Take hold of your responsibility to engage your elected officials on behalf of your organization and join us in the fight on the many issues facing our industry. Be it an email to a legislator, inviting them to your offices for a tour or on a home visit, or taking time to join us in D.C. for one of the many fly-in events, it takes an army of voices to accomplish a common goal. To get involved, email Jake Krilovich.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Talking Home Care: Amanda Oberlies on “No on MA Ballot Question 1”

Amanda Oberlies of the Organization of Nurse Leaders joins us to discuss why her organization (and the Alliance) oppose Massachusetts Ballot Question #1.

The Alliance’s Pat Kelleher &
ONL’s Amanda Oberlies

Should health care facilities have their nurse-to-patient ratios defined by law? That’s the question put to Massachusetts voters this coming Tuesday. Amanda Oberlies of the Organization of Nurse Leaders joins us to discuss why her organization (and the Alliance) oppose Massachusetts Ballot Question #1. Their conversation covers:

  • Who’s behind the ballot question and why?
  • What is the intersection of staffing-ratios and quality?
  • How does California’s experience with a similar law correlate to the MA proposal?


You may listen to the podcast by clicking the play button below, downloading it directly, or subscribing through iTunes or Google Play. (Length: 30 minutes; Size: 24 MB). If you enjoy it, please give us a five-star review so others can find it.

Host: Patricia Kelleher is the Executive Director of the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts.

Guest: Amanda Stefancyk Oberlies, PhD, MBA, RN, CENP, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Organization of Nurse Leaders (ONL).

Resources:


Talking Home Care LogoDon’t want to miss the next episode of Talking Home Care? Subscribe through iTunes, Google Play, or accessing its feed directly.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

HCA Submits Comment on Medicare Changes; Submit Your Comments Now!

On July 1st, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule which includes several changes to the home health benefit for 2019 and beyond. The public comment period closes this Friday August 31, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. As of this blog posting, 760 comments have been submitted to CMS which is encouraging, but far from the more than 1,300 comments submitted last year in response to the HHGM proposal which was ultimately withdrawn.

You can view the HCA’s written comments here and can download the word document here.

You may submit your own comments to CMS here.

Here are some of the key changes proposed, and an overview of HCA’s response:

Home Health Wage Index Changes

  • The 2019 proposed payment rates increase by 2.1% which represents a $400 million increase.
  • HCA of MA has long expressed concerns to CMS over inequities in how the wage index is calculated for home health agencies compared to hospitals. HCA urges CMS to adjust the 2019 home health agency wage index to reflect a policy to limit the wage index disparity between provider types within a given CBSA.

Proposed Patient Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) for CY 2020

  • Implementation: As the proposed PDGM would mark a major change in the way home health agencies will be reimbursed, the HCA urges CMS to delay implementation by one year to ensure that there is no disruption in access to services for beneficiaries and evaluate the accuracy of the model and its effect.

  • LUPA Thresholds: CMS proposes to set the LUPA visit threshold at the 10th percentile for each payment group. HCA believes this is complex and will complicate the care planning process for home health agencies. HCA urges CMS to retain the current LUPA thresholds and revisit them in future years.

  • Behavioral Assumptions: CMS proposed three ‘behavioral assumptions’ in the PDGM totaling -6.42%. However, these assumptions are not based in data or evidence. HCA believes that two of the three assumptions already exist in the current PPS methodology including; that agencies are already incentivized to both report the highest playing diagnosis codes and to develop and deliver plans of care that exceed the LUPA threshold. This could result in an over estimated impact of behavioral assumptions and the HCA urges CMS to eliminate the Clinical Group Coding and LUPA threshold assumptions.

  • Split percentage payment approach: HCA believes that changing from a 60 to 30 day billing period will be very disruptive to agencies’ operations and increase back-office costs. Therefore, HCA urges CMS to continue the split payment approach at the current 60/40 and 50/50 splits for early and late periods, respectively, to give agencies cash flow breathing room.

  • Certification and Re-certification of Patient Eligibility: HCA has long advocated for regulatory language to align with sub-regulatory guidance as it relates to documentation of the patient’s eligibility. HCA is encouraged by CMS’ proposal to eliminate the requirement that the physician provide an estimate of how much longer skilled services are required and we request that CMS consider revisions to the physician’s burden of the F2F encounter as a condition of payment. 
  • Remote Patient Monitoring: HCA strongly supports the proposal to recognize remote patient monitoring costs as an administrative cost on the HHA cost report. HCA does recommend however that CMS remove the regulation that does not allow remote patient monitoring to be used as a substitute for in-person home health services. 
  • Home Health Value Based Purchasing Model: HCA has long supported the HHVBP model aiming to improve quality by giving HHAs incentives to provide better quality care. However, HCA urges CMS to modify the HHVBP to recognize stabilization in the scoring because in many cases, stabilization (instead of improvement) is an appropriate goal for some patients.