2020 Annual Report

Our 2020 Annual Report highlights the Alliance and Foundation’s achievements over the past 12 months, including our response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Our 2020 Annual Report highlights the Alliance and Foundation’s achievements over the past 12 months.

2020 Annual Report of the Home Care Alliance and Foundation for Home Health

Responding to COVID

Since the onset of the pandemic and the declarations of federal and state emergencies, the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts shifted much of its attention and resources to COVID-19-related membership support. To that end,
the Alliance:

  • Was the first state to create guidelines for members—both medical and non-medical—admitting COVID-positive patients. This guidance was adopted by many other states and shared by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC)
  • Offered regular calls for CEOs of certified and private care agencies to share and learn from each other, as well as calls for clinical directors, HR mangers, and hospice directors
  • Published more than 50 COVID Updates, a new publication exclusively for our members
  • Advocated for, and secured, multiple Medicaid waivers, including full payment for remote visits, waiver of certain in-home assessment requirements, and allowance of a remote audio-visual face-to-face (F2F)
  • Successfully advocated for non-medical home care services to be deemed “essential” to continue operations in the early days of the pandemic as the Baker Administration was issuing business closures
  • Worked with MassHealth on guidance to keep telehealth waivers permanent
  • Hosted more than a dozen webinars on topics such as: accessing the PPP program, documenting telehealth visits for payment, unemployment and COVID, the CARES ACT, and Medicare stimulus funding
  • Advocated with the state for COVID support funding, resulting in Massachusetts being among the most generous states in passing federal Medicaid money to agencies in the form of 10% rate increases for home health, 20% rate increases for continuous skilled nursing, and 10% provider payment relief for providers in the State Home Care Program
  • Answered hundreds of member regulatory questions related to the pandemic
  • Developed and hosted a COVID-19 Resource page that includes Allied member COVID resource services, generating more than 1,500 page views between March and August
  • Secured Board of Registration in Nursing clarification, assuring that the federal change related to NPs and home health services will remain operative in Massachusetts after the State of Emergency
  • Worked with MassHealth on the new agency-directed PCA model program
  • Coordinated strategy with the Home Care Aide Council on expanded services and increased funding in the EOEA home care program
  • Worked with the Massachusetts Medical Society to educate physicians about audio-visual F2F assessment requirements
  • Worked with assisted living facilities and other acute and post-acute providers to educate them on the federal temporary changes to the Medicare homebound requirement
  • Worked with the Betsy Lehman Center on an infection control training and toolbox for use in homemaker and aide training

Other 2019-2020 Work

Among the member supportive services over the past twelve months, the Alliance and Foundation have:

  • Moved the entire Spring Conference and Trade Show to a virtual platform available to members on demand
  • Offered members a one-time 15% dues discount
  • Worked with state legislators and other stakeholders to advance an effective non-medical home care licensure bill; Legislation is unlikely to be signed into
  • law prior to the end of the 2020 Legislative Session
  • Produced a series of videos for our website and for members’ use on working with Private Care home care agencies
  • Provided Get Out the Home Care Vote materials for members to use with their employees
  • Hosted an EVV vendor webinar series
  • Hosted multiple sessions on operating under the PDGM payment system
  • Hosted a virtual Home Care Aide Recognition Day, engaging more than 1,000 people on Facebook and Twitter, honoring 120 aides from member agencies

Three More Agencies Earn Accreditation

Three more agencies earn accreditation from the Alliance, bringing the total of accredited agencies to 59.

HCA Accreditation Logo

Congratulations to Acti-Kare (Middleboro), Kind Senior Care (North Andover), and Northeast Clinical Services (Danvers) for achieving Home Care Alliance Accreditation!

There are currently 59 agencies that have earned accreditation by demonstrating their compliance with each of the 15 standards of our Accreditation Program.

Since Massachusetts does not license private pay home care agencies, the Alliance created a Home Care Agency Accreditation Program in 2010 to establish operational and quality standards equivalent to licensure in most other states.

The program includes fifteen standards relating to: Client rights, privacy, and complaint procedures; Protections against abuse; Fair employment practices; Caregiver background screening; Competency, training and supervision; Insurance coverage; and Compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws. Accreditation is only awarded to agencies that meet or exceed all fifteen standards.

The Accreditation Program allows agencies to demonstrate that they meet high standards of quality. It shows clients and families that they are protected because the agency directly employs its workers and carries workers’ compensation, liability insurance, and an employee dishonesty bond. Accreditation demonstrates that an agency’s caregivers receive background checks, screening, and proper training for their jobs. Accreditation also provides a competitive edge in the marketplace, contributes to securing new business, and enhances staff recruitment by showing a commitment to fair labor standards.

Accredited agencies can use the Alliance’s Accreditation Logo to show their commitment to quality on their websites, brochures, and stationery. The Alliance lists all accredited agencies on its website, gives them special designation in its print directories and in the online Find an Agency function.

The Alliance Revamps Its Advocacy Action Center

The Alliance’s redesigned Advocacy Action Center makes it easier for members to communicate with their elected officials on the pressing issues facing their agencies.

HCA CapitolFor the first time in many years, the Alliance has redesigned its Advocacy Action Center website, offering members an enhanced advocacy experience so they can easily communicate with their elected officials on the pressing issues facing their agencies. This  post will highlight some of the key changes so that you are prepared to take action and make a difference!

Main-Page Scrolling Advocacy Feature

The main Advocacy Action Center page now features a scrolling banner of key advocacy initiatives that the Alliance and its members are working on. The banner has a functioning link which you can click on to bring you directly to the action center to quickly send an email to your elected official.

Main-Page Buttons

Under the scrolling banner, you will see three buttons linking to sub-pages. This organizes the Advocacy Action Center into three easily accessible topics: Legislative Priorities, Testimony/Comments, and Facts & Figures. Note: The Facts & Figures sub-page is currently being updated.

Legislative Priorities Sub-Page

Among the biggest of changes, is our newly designed Legislative Priorities page. For the first time, members now have a centralized landing page which organizes all of the Alliance’s legislative priorities in one place. You’ll see the page is split in half, organized by State and Federal priorities.

You’ll also see that each legislative issue has a brief overview of the issue and the solution that HCA supports. Underneath each blurb are links to download the fact sheets for, or take action on, the issue!

We hope that you will find our new advocacy center easier to use so that you can engage with your elected officials, while focusing on running your agency!

The New ThinkHomeCare.org

The Alliance is extremely pleased to announce the first re-launch of its website in nearly five years.

Screenshot of the new design.

Design & Home Page Changes

  • A clean, responsive design that works both for desktop and mobile platforms;
  • Member sign-on available directly on the home page and many sub-pages; and
  • New red button highlights and a simplified navigation menu to direct members & non-members alike to topics of interest.

Function & Enhancements

  • A new Education Page with categories that that filter for the events you’re looking for;
  • An overhauled Association Store with better categories and clearer organization;
  • A brand-new Library of Recorded Webinars, some available for purchase (at reduced rates for members), some available at no charge;
  • A redesigned Find-an-Agency search helps families find services that meets their needs; and
  • A new, members-only page listing money-saving Group Purchase Programs available through the Alliance.

As with all websites, we’ll continue to make changes and enhancements over the coming weeks and months. If you have any problems or suggestions, please contact me at tmeyer@thinkhomecare.org.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Skilled Nursing Campaign Garners Media Attention

This week, the Alliance’s parent-provider skilled nursing campaign received national media coverage. The campaign seeks higher reimbursement rates from MassHealth for continuous skilled nursing services. Currently, agencies are unable to compete for nurses with area hospitals, and has led to a 37% nurse turnover rate, and nearly 24% of MassHealth-Authorized service hours going unfilled.

On Sunday, The Boston Globe featured a front-page story into the life of one of the parents caring for a child in the Massachusetts Continuous Skilled Nursing Program. Noelia Ferreira has gone over 100 days without a skilled nurse coming to her home to care for her daughter Abi. The article beautifully explains Noelia’s struggles to find adequate care and her commitment to keeping Abi safe at home.

As a result of this front page feature, WGBH invited Noelia and MA Pediatric Home Nursing Care Campaign founder, Angela Ortiz, to be interviewed by host, Jim Braude. Footage of the interview can be viewed here.

The campaign is leveraging this exposure to raise awareness and momentum in our fight for adequate reimbursement rates. Please visit www.mychildcantwait.com to write or call Governor Baker urging action.

Recognizing Heart and Courage – Our Time to Shine 2017

(l-r): Home Care Champions Lisa Burgess, Lauri Medeiros, Susan McCarthy, Angela Ortiz. Far right: Northeast Clinical Services Exec. Director Diane Carrabine.

As is always the case, the annual Our Time to Shine awards ceremony was filled with emotional moments about the challenge-reward dynamic that is working in home care. Our two Home Health Aides of the Year — Gach Clamp of Emerson Hospital Homecare and Nancy Quinlan of Aberdeen Home Care — were both supremely eloquent about the personal family care giving experiences that led them to second careers in home care.

It was, however, our Home Care Champions – the parent-led Massachusetts Pediatric Home Nursing Care Campaign (pictured above) – that really pulled together the story and impact of home care. Campaign founder Angela Ortiz – speaking for fellow parent awardees Lisa Burgess, Sue McCarthy, and Lauri Medeiros – described their campaign to get nursing reimbursement rates from MassHealth raised for the nurses caring for their children.

Angela painted an impassioned picture of the lives of these families, especially when hours of care that are needed and authorized go unfilled. She explained the tremendous family strain, particularly affecting the siblings, and the countless admissions to hospital ICUs. This unnecessary pain and suffering that could be mitigated, she said, with more home nursing support.

Angela wove themes into her talk from her daughter, Ayla’s, favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz, and the love that is the basis of all these families do to care at home for their medically complex children. The hours of work the families have put into the campaign, and the partnership with the agency providers that has formed, serve as a model for any advocacy group. While there is much more relief needed to get the Continuous Skilled Nursing rates to a place where agencies can compete with specialty hospitals for nurses, the state has raised rates by nearly 5% in one year, a direct result of this tireless campaign.

When the parents show the courage to stand up at a hearing to tell their story and they are fueled – said Angela – by the message behind Dorothy’s journey “There is no place like home.”

We couldn’t agree more, Angela. Congratulations: It’s an honor to work with you.

2017 Star Award Winners

Gach Clamp Nancy Quinlan David Ahern Carlton Jorge David Prybyla
Gach Clamp Nancy Quinlan David Ahearn Carlton Jorge David Prybyla
— Aides of the Year — — Clinicians of the Year — Physician of the Year
Emerson Hospital Homecare Aberdeen Home Care Baystate Home Health Community Nurse Home Care Orthopaedics Surgical Associations

 

Arline McKenzie Susan Proulx-Galster Rep. Aaron Vega
Arline McKenzie Susan Proulx-Galster Rep. Aaron Vega
— Managers of the Year — Legislator of the Year
Walpole Area VNA Circle Home (D-5th Hampden)

For more on the awardees, go here.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Alliance Quoted in Article on Worker Training, Background Checks

James Fuccione, former Director of Legislative and Public Affairs for the Home Care Alliance, was extensively quoted in an article in the Springfield Republican today.  The article, “Personal care attendants have less training, checks than other home care workers,” by Shira Schoenberg, Statehouse reporter for the Republican, compares background checks and training requirements for workers in the state Personal Care Attendant program with workers employed by home care agencies that provide services under the Executive Office of Elder Affairs home care program.

MassHealth Announces Home Health Agency Audit Results

Though a statement published in a Boston Globe online article, MassHealth revealed that their first round of home health agency audits uncovered $22.5 million in improper billing.

Nine home health agencies were involved in the initial audits conducted in response to steep spending growth in the MassHealth home health program. As the Globe article points out, the majority of that spending growth is driven by 62 companies that have come online since 2013.

In response, the Home Care Alliance is making its statement on the audits available. The full text of the statement is copied below:

Home Care Alliance of MA Statement on MassHealth Audits

BOSTON, MA – MassHealth announced today that audits of home health providers have uncovered more than $22 million in improper payments. The audits were initiated in an effort to identify the sources of recent dramatic spending growth on MassHealth home health services.

The Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, a nonprofit trade association representing home health and home care providers, has been working side-by-side with the state Medicaid office staff since these audits were announced. The Alliance supported and continues to support MassHealth’s efforts to ensure appropriate services are being provided. This includes a temporary moratorium on new providers, and a prior authorization process for approving home health care services. In the months since the latter measure was put in place, both sides are in constant communication to relay concerns and suggestions. After years of lax oversight, Governor Baker’s administration has put a long-overdue emphasis on program accountability to assure that only eligible MassHealth members receive the in-home services they need to preserve their health and well-being.

“Massachusetts is fortunate in having some the best home health providers in the country and we support MassHealth in these efforts because we want to preserve the high standards of quality that patients and their families should expect,” said Patricia Kelleher, Executive Director of the Home Care Alliance of MA. “These audits only help to prove what our organization has been saying for years: There needs to be better state oversight as well as a higher bar of entry into the market.”

“Many of the MassHealth enrollees that our member agencies see have severe and persistent mental illnesses, and the multiple medications that they take can cause additional medical problems that require ongoing medical attention,” added Kelleher. “The agencies who do this work feel that they are a huge part of the health care safety net, providing valuable services to patients and families who otherwise would be placed in costlier care settings and/or become a detriment or even threat to their communities.”

The decision to add new management controls was driven by growth in utilization of the benefit particularly between FY 2013 and FY 2015. At present approximately 32,000 MassHealth enrollees are using home health services on an annual basis. Of these approximately 7,000 are receiving home health to assist in managing a mental or behavioral health condition, 4,000 are under age 21 and 9,300 are over age 61.

“Although MassHealth has not shared the specific audit results with us, we will continue to push for better standards and support program integrity efforts on behalf of all agencies that are playing by the rules and providing great care,” said Kelleher.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Boston Globe’s ‘Salute to Nurses’ Recognizes Home Care

Home care had a prominent place in this year’s “Salute to Nurses,” a special section published every year in the Boston Globe recognizing the work of nurses in every health care setting.

The compassionate and high-quality care of nurses from several home care agencies were recognized, including CareGroup Parmenter Home Care & Hospice, Comfort Home Care, Emerson Hospital Home Care, Hallmark Health VNA & Hospice, and Home Health VNA. Many more stories from patients, their families and nurse colleagues highlighted cases where a nurse from a setting other than home care arranged for post-acute services or follow-up in some way.

Although it wasn’t from a traditional home care agency, another article was dedicated to Allison Neff, a  nurse in Boston Medical Center’s “Elders Living at Home” Program. The article explains:

Neff joined the Elders Living at Home Program, which prevents homelessness among seniors, in 2008. Her job is to conduct home visits to ELAHP patients who don’t qualify for visiting nurse services provided by the state, but who need assistance with some aspect of their health. Many of her patients are at imminent risk of losing their housing, or were homeless and are now transitioning into housing.

The Home Care Alliance will be recognizing all levels of home care staff at the annual Innovation Showcase & Star Awards on June 14th. Clinicians, aides, managers, physicians and other home care champions can be nominated for recognition at the event’s website.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.