EOHHS to Hold Hearings on FY12 Budget

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services will be holding a special hearing on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget and the Home Care Alliance wants to take the opportunity to offer testimony.

This will NOT be a chance to talk about MassHealth rates, but rather ideas on how home health care can help the state offer services more efficiently. The Alliance would like to set up a panel to present oral testimony so please contact us if you are interested in speaking on subjects like expanding telehealth, or anything else you believe addresses the three key questions in the notice below.

Of course, HCA would welcome the submission of written testimony and are willing to collect and submit materials on behalf of agencies.

Another hearing will be announced shortly for Western Massachusetts. See the notice from EOHHS below.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS will be conducting a public hearing on the upcoming Fiscal Year 2012 budget. Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, M.D., and the Assistant Secretaries at EOHHS are looking forward to hearing the views of members of the community regarding the agencies under their purview.

Gardner Auditorium, Massachusetts State House
Monday, December 13, 2010
Boston, MA 02133
1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

The hearing will be tentatively divided as follows:

  • 1:30 to 2:30              Disabilities & Community Services – MCDHH, MCB, MRC, DDS
  • 2:30 to 3:30              Veterans, Elder Affairs, Soldiers’ Homes
  • 3:30 to 4:30              Health Services – DMH, DPH, DHCFP, MassHealth
  • 4:30 to 5:30              Children, Youth and Families – DCF, DYS, ORI, DTA

 

Since the start of the budget crisis, the Governor’s Administration has worked with you to solve deficits totaling nearly $13 billion.  As FY12 approaches, we are facing the expiration of federal stimulus funds and reduced rainy day funds and even though revenues started to grow in FY11, revenue collections historically lag behind national economic growth and will remain moderate over the next two fiscal years.

To overcome this budget challenge, we will need to work together to reexamine all public services and their delivery and find innovative solutions so that we can continue our mission with minimal disruption. Governor Patrick, Secretary Bigby and all of us at EOHHS are seeking your input to identify potential efficiencies, cost-saving initiatives and partnership opportunities that will preserve core services to the fullest extent possible without additional expenditures.

Due to the number of individuals anticipated to attend, oral testimony will be limited to three minutes. Following are three questions we want you to address in your testimony or as a supplement to your testimony.  Please do your best to address each question specifically.

  • Are there areas where you believe EOHHS can regionalize, consolidate or streamline services, programs or offices to better serve clients, increase efficiencies and achieve savings?
  • Are there areas where you believe EOHHS can use technology to better serve clients, increase efficiencies and achieve savings?
  • Are there ways you believe EOHHS can reduce expenditures while maintaining essential and core services?

In the interest of time, representative panels are welcome.  If you need accommodations please call 617-573-1600 and let the receptionist know. In addition, written testimony is strongly encouraged and may be mailed to:

Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, EOHHS
One Ashburton Place, Room 1109,
Boston, MA 02108

Or emailed to:  eohhshearings@massmail.state.ma.us

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Cape Cod Times: Taking Steps to Reduce Fall Injuries

The Falls Prevention Coalition hosted the fourth annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day at the State House on Wednesday, September 22. The Home Care Alliance was recognized as one of the founding members of the coalition and spoke at the event, which also included remarks from the Department of Public Health, State Senator Patricia Jehlen, and Secretary of Elder Affairs Ann Hartstein.

The Cape Cod Times reported on the event that promoted Tai Chi as a means for elders to retain balance and strength and the article is available here.

More from this event will be posted on the HCA Facebook page.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Join Us for Annual Falls Awareness Day Event

What: 4th Annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day

When: September 22, 10:00am – 12:00pm

Where: Nurses Hall, Massachusetts State House, Boston

Come join the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, DPH Commissioner John Auerbach, the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs, and others for this year’s Falls Prevention Awareness Day. The event will include speakers, a presentation of proclamations from the Massachusetts Senate and on behalf of Governor Deval Patrick and more.

For more information, check out the event flyer and contact the Alliance if you are interested in attending.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

 

Elder Affairs Releases Nine Principles for Aging Well

At an event held at UMass Boston with Governor Deval Patrick, Executive Office of Elder Affairs Secretary Ann Hartstein released the “Nine Principles for Aging Well.”

The Home Care Alliance, as part of the Elder Stakeholders group that regularly meets with AARP and Secretary Hartstein, assisted in the formation of these principles, which includes:

  • To have access to affordable long-term services and supports that can sustain individuals in the setting of their choice, including a consumer’s full participation in managing services.
  • To lend meaningful support to caregivers to preserve the beneficial impact caregiving has upon the caregiver, the person depending upon them and society at large.

These principles will be used to guide Elder Affairs and the Governor as they move forward with an aging agenda for the future (Click on the above image for a larger view).

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Alliance Weighs in on Falls Prevention Legislation

The Joint Committee on Elder Affairs held a public hearing at the State House on Wednesday, September 23 and among the bills taken up were proposals relating to falls prevention among older adults.

Lisa O’Loughlin, an independent community nurse and falls prevention advocate, presented testimony supporting the falls prevention bill,  Senate Bill 318, on behalf of the Home Care Alliance. You can view that testimony by clicking here. Gail Mello, Rehabilitation Director for the Brockton Visiting Nurse Association, also presented testimony in which she stressed the urgency of passing the bill using a story of a patient who suffered a fall and is now in serious condition.

The Alliance, as a member of the state’s Falls Prevention Awareness Coalition, co-sponsored and helped host Falls Prevention Awareness Day at the State House on September 22. The Alliance’s Director of Clinical and Regulatory Affairs Helen Siegel spoke to a crowd of seniors and falls awareness advocates in the Great Hall along with Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach, State Senator and co-chair of the Elder Affairs Committee Patricia Jehlen, and Assistant Secretary of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs Ruth Palombo.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Letter to MA Congressman: Stop Cuts to Home Care

Three committees in the US House of Representatives – House Ways & Means, House Energy and Commerce, and House Committee on Energy and Labor, each with their own subcommittee on health – have jointly submitted a health care reform proposal known as the Tri-Committee Health Reform Bill.

The legislation includes the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s (MedPAC) recommendations that Congress eliminate the home health market basket update for 2010 and accelerate the application of the 2011 coding creep adjustment proposed for 2011 (2.71 percent) to 2010 – reducing current rates in 2010 by 5.46 percent. MedPAC also recommended that Congress direct CMS to rebase home health payments in 2011, using 2007 costs as a base.

this effort would bring devastating cuts, which over ten years would take $51 billion from the Medicare home health program, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Recently, the Alliance’s Executive Director Pat Kelleher and Board President Patricia O’Brien sent a letter (see below) to Massachusetts Congressmen highlighting our major concern over this proposal. Please help us advocate by clicking here and sending an email message to YOUR Congressional representative (see first message under “Federal or National Issues”).

Dear Congressman:

On behalf of the 150 home care agencies that comprise the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts,  I write to express our strong concerns with provisions in the U.S. House of Representatives’ “Tri-Committee Health Reform Proposal,” which calls for catastrophic cuts to the Medicare home health program.

It is estimated that the House proposal would cut home health Medicare payments by $51 billion over ten years.  The proposal would eliminate the home health market basket update for 2010 and accelerate the application of the payment adjustment proposed for 2011 (2.71 percent) to 2010—reducing current rates in 2010 by 5.46 percent.   For Massachusetts, this means that Medicare home health reimbursement would be reduced by more than $16 million in the next year alone and more than $300 million over the next five years.

Cuts of this magnitude would deal a devastating blow to Massachusetts home health care.  Massachusetts home health agencies have seen almost no or miniscule increases in our Medicare payments over the last seven years.  Many home health agencies are already in financial jeopardy as a result of Medicaid cuts and inadequate Medicare Advantage payments.

Using cost report data from 2008, we have estimated that should these reductions be sustained, half of the home health agencies in Massachusetts, including virtually all of our safety net VNA’s, would have negative operating margins in FY 2010.

The recommendations for home health cuts come from MEDPAC studies that do not reflect what is happening in your district. These studies use a weighted average, combining all home health agencies into a single unit, rather than recognizing the individual existence and local nature of each provider. MEDPAC’s recommendations also fail to evaluate the impact of the completely reformed – and reduced – home health payment model put in place in 2008.

The Home Care Alliance supports health care reform and coverage expansion that is based on sound health care policy principles and builds on the strengths of our current system.  In supporting our call for reversing this cut, we call your attention to a study by Avalere Health (May 11, 2009: see attached) that found home health use saves Medicare dollars by reducing hospitalizations and nursing home stays.  Based on the findings in this study, an estimated $30 billion could be saved over the next ten years by expanding access to home health for chronic disease patients.

An underfunded home health system would hurt the most vulnerable elders in your district and will cause a ripple effect in the rest of the system backing people up in hospitals and costing Medicare and the taxpayers more money (After the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 cut billions from the Medicare home health benefit, Medicare expenditures on skilled nursing facilities and hospitals skyrocketed).

The Home Care Alliance is aware of the pressure on the current Medicare program to find efficiencies that can support expanded insurance access.   Our member agencies have supported efforts – endorsed by the National Association for Home Care – that would

·         Enact a moratorium on new certifications of Medicare participating home health agencies. Most of the questionable growth in home health expenditures has occurred in states with a saturation of home health agencies. For example, Texas has had a 200% increase in spending following a 100% increase in HHAs. In Houston alone, there are more HHAS than in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland combined

·         Institute a revenue-based provider-specific cap on outlier payments prohibiting outlier payment on a set percentage of an HHA’s Medicare home health revenue in a calendar year.   There is strong evidence that a minority of home health agencies are abusing the outlier payment system. While small in numbers, these providers have taken well in excess of $1B in outlier payments from the total of $16B in annual home health expenditures

The potential savings through this proposal are $4-8B over 5 years/ $16-23B over 10 years.

We appreciate your support for our agencies and the frail elders that are the beneficiaries of our services.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Tim Burgers of the Alliance Receives Achievement Award from ASAE

The below press announcement regarding the American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) “Association Professional Achievement Award,” given to the Alliance’s Associate Director Timothy Burgers, was published in the Winthrop Transcript on June 18.

Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts Associate Director and Winthrop resident Timothy Burgers has received the Association Professional Achievement Award by the American Society of Association Executives for his 20 years of service for the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, a trade association that represents home health and home care agencies in the state.

“Tim has been an invaluable member of a team that may have changed during his 20 years, but the constant has been his leadership of and commitment to the organization and its goals,” said Home Care Alliance Executive Director Patricia Kelleher. “Tim has been an integral piece of maturing the Alliance from a small volunteer-driven organization to the fiscally sound and growing entity that exists today.”

The ASAE’s award is given to an association or nonprofit professional for exemplary service and outstanding accomplishments in management. Since the Alliance has been in existence for 40 years, Mr. Burgers’ tenure has spanned half of the organization’s time thus far. Mr. Burgers is responsible for all internal operations, financial management, human resources, technology development, member services, and general office management. His steady hand and management skills have guided the Home Care Alliance through three name changes, four office moves, the creation of a subsidiary non-profit Foundation and multiple by-law overhauls and revisions.

Under Mr. Burgers and Patricia Kelleher, the Alliance has reached 150 member agencies that employ more than 19,000 workers providing over 5 million home care visits each year to approximately 175,000 elderly, mentally ill and otherwise infirm Massachusetts residents.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

Online Elder, Disability Resource Taps Alliance Member Directory

The Massachusetts Aging and Disability Information Locator (MADIL), an online service provided by the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services, will now include the Home Care Alliance’s online member directory to help people connect with home health services.

“MADIL is a great resource for families and individuals seeking vital care services,” said Home Care Alliance Executive Director Patricia Kelleher. “I am pleased that the Alliance and our members are integrated into the search system and I applaud Health and Human Services for expanding people’s access to important information, which will make life easier for the elderly and disabled community.”

See our press release for more details.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

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