Home Health & Hospice

Weekly roundup

Homecare Insider, July 25, 2016

New HHA PEPPER is now available

A new release of the Program for Evaluating Payment Patterns Electronic Report (PEPPER) for home health agencies (HHA) is now available, according to TMF Health Quality Institute, CMS’ PEPPER contractor. The new report includes statistics through December 2015 and can be accessed via the PEPPER Resources Portal.

The PEPPER for HHA will be available to download as a Microsoft Excel file for approximately two years. A WebEx training session on downloading and reading the PEPPER will be conducted on July 28. Registration is required, and the session is limited to 1,000 participants.

Source: PEPPER Resources, TMF

Analysis: home health quality measures show improvement

National averages have improved for nearly all the quality of patient care measures that the government tracks and posts online for Medicare home health providers, according to Fazzi Associates, a home health and hospice consulting firm based in Northampton, Massachusetts.

The Home Health Compare results were updated last month.

Quality of Patient Care measures data showed improvement in every measure except one—flu immunization for the current season showed a slight decline, according to the analysis. Data also showed:
•    Improvement for all measures associated with Managing Daily Activities.
•    Four measures for Managing Pain and Treating Symptoms improved, while pain assessment conducted remained unchanged.
•    Slight improvement for all measures associated with Treating Wounds and Preventing Pressure Sores.

Despite this overall improvement, HHCAHPS averages indicated that the national score for patient willingness to recommend the HHA to family and friends decreased. The remaining measures were unchanged.

Source: Fazzi Associates

House bill would gut DoL overtime rule

Four lawmakers in the U.S. House of representatives last week introduced a bill that would substantially alter the U.S. Labor Department's new overtime rule by delaying the salary threshold increase and eliminating subsequent automatic updates.

The overtime rule, which was issued in May, will raise the salary threshold for overtime exemption from about $23,700 to $47,500 on December 1. If the terms of employment are not changed, more than 4 million U.S. workers in a wide range of industries would be eligible for overtime pay. However, the legislation from Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon), Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) would raise the threshold to $36,000 on December 1 and then increase it each year until it reached $47,500 in December 2019.

The legislation would “phase in” the DoL's new salary threshold over three years, increasing the salary threshold to just under $36,000 on December 1—roughly $11,500 less than the DoL mandate. Smaller increases in December 2017, 2018, and 2019 would bring the threshold to $47,500.

The bill would also abolish the final rule's automatic increases to the salary threshold.

The DoL overtime rule may not have a huge impact on the homecare industry as a whole, because many homecare workers are hourly, as opposed to salaried, workers. Nevertheless, homecare agencies that have salaried employees will have to find a way to track the hours of those whose pay falls under the new threshold—potentially increasing the burden on smaller agencies.

Source: Reuters, Home Health Care News

The clock is ticking on HQRP reconsideration

In June, CMS mailed notifications to hospices that are not in compliance with Hospice Quality Reporting Program (HQRP) requirements for calendar year 2015, which will affect fiscal year 2017 Annual Payment Updates. Hospice providers that received a letter of non-compliance have 30 days from the date of the noncompliance letter to submit a request for reconsideration. The instructions for reconsideration are included in the letter of non-compliance and can be accessed on the Reconsideration Requests webpage.

Hospices are required to submit their request to CMS via email, and the request for reconsideration must be accompanied by supporting documentation that demonstrates compliance. CMS will be unable to review any request without the necessary documentation. 

Source: CMS