Home Health & Hospice

Weekly Roundup

Homecare Insider, August 15, 2016

Is there a doctor near the house? Probably not   

The U.S. lacks the medical personnel to make house calls to the estimated 2 to 4 four million people who need them, according to a study published last week in Health Affairs. Researchers combed through two years' worth of Medicare data, combined it with U.S. Government Census information, and concluded that more than half of Americans live more than 30 miles away from full-time providers of home-based medical care.

Home health agencies limit how far doctors, nurses, physician assistants or other primary care providers can travel, but 53% of the U.S. population lives more than 30 miles from a homecare provider organization, the study found. Of the primary care physicians who made home visits to traditional Medicare beneficiaries, 9% of providers made 44% of the house calls—at least 1,000 visits annually.

Medicare is expected to grow at more than 7% in the coming decade, to become a $1.075 trillion program by 2026, and savings from improved home-based care could be significant, the researchers noted. Of the $632 billion Medicare spent in 2015, 23% went to hospital inpatient services and a slim 3% went to home health.

The healthcare system needs to expand the ways it gets care to these homebound patients, many of whom suffer from chronic diseases, the researchers concluded. 

Source: Modern Healthcare

Survey finds likely beneficiaries of home health don’t like pre-claim review

Know who else doesn’t like the pre-claim review? More than 1,900 senior citizens, according to poll data from Bring Home the Vote, which describes itself as a nationwide initiative that surveys seniors on a wide range of issues. 

In a recent survey, 80% of respondents said patients who need prompt health services would face delays in care If the federal government required home health agencies to get approval from a government contractor to provide that care. Approximately 77% of respondents said this requirement was likely or very likely to raise the overall cost of care as well as the cost of Medicare.

However, 45% of respondents also said requiring HHAs to get approval from a government contractor for providing care to patients would be somewhat likely or very likely to reduce fraudulent homecare claims. This edged out the percentage who thought it was not very likely or not likely at all to reduce fraudulent claims.

Source: Bring The Vote Home

Illinois Gov. suspends homecare overtime restriction

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner last week suspended a state policy that restricted overtime hours for homecare workers, just before an industry union filed a class action lawsuit challenging the policy. The Illinois Department of Human Services implemented the overtime restriction in May, mandating that homecare workers in Illinois’ Home Services program could not work more than 35 hours per week with five more hours allowed for travel. Workers could only work more than 40 hours total for the week under certain, qualified conditions.

Rauner’s suspension suspends the policy.

The overtime limits reportedly saved the state more than $5 million since the policy took effect, but agencies and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Illinois criticized the policy as burdensome to patients and unfair to workers. Patients were forced to hire additional help if they required more than 40 hours of care per week, according to policy opponents.

The suspension is a temporary victory, the SEIU stated on its website. The state’s Department of Human Services still plans to submit the policy for public comment. Rauner recently vetoed a bill to increase the minimum wage for homecare workers to $15 per hour.

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