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Covid-19 and Home Health Care Telehealth: The Big Shift

The home health care industry has long pioneered a mix of in-person and remote care services to provide continuous care to patients in their homes. In the past, however, the industry has not necessarily utilized the latest technologies. Until recently, “remote care” was primarily defined by phone calls.

Part of the issue has been the unequal balance of providers and a growing population of home care patients. Remote care is a potential benefit to care coordination, but many home healthcare agencies have lacked the staff to provide for both in-person and remote care.

Another issue exacerbates this imbalance. Traditionally, the health industry has been unable to bill insurance companies for remote care. Without an easy path to payment, home health agencies, many of which are privately-owned, cannot expend valuable time and resources on remote care.

The health care paradigm shifted earlier this year when the pandemic forced the closure of many services, and most of the American population was ordered to shelter in place. Suddenly, health systems small and large—from private home health care agencies to large hospitals—had to provide attentive care while minimizing exposure to the Covid-19, especially for at-risk patients, many of whom utilize in-home services.

Far from floundering, however, most health systems used the crisis to create a new opportunity. As Bailey Bryant, writing for Home Health Care News, recently noted: “The health care sector has long had the capability to use telehealth, but it took the COVID-19 emergency to prompt widespread adoption.”

Read: “Senior Telehealth Use Continues to Rise, Despite Home Health Limitations

The pandemic has changed people’s thinking about telehealth services, and caregivers are taking advantage of new technologies to provide seamless care.

Writing for mHealth Intelligence, the editor Erik Wicklund writes that home health care workers use: “telemedicine technology, ranging from mHealth apps and connected devices to remote patient monitoring and smart home programs, to provide a continuous care experience, and one that balances clinical support with self-management.”

Read: “The Promise and Potential for Telehealth in Home Health”

Indeed, after nearly a half year of utilizing telehealth services, both caregivers and patients alike are realizing the benefits of more seamless coordination between in-home and remote services.

Home Health Care Telehealth: Attention from Lawmakers

Lawmakers have started to recognize a need to improve billing for remote care services—though not yet for the home health care industry. As Bailey Bryant notes in her article about telehealth and home health care:

“The increased use of telehealth among the senior population is largely thanks to new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) flexibilities allowing dozens of telemedicine services — though not yet home health — to be billed at the same rate as in-person visits.”

However, some lawmakers have recognized a need to reimburse private agencies, like home health care providers. For example, the senator Susan Collins, of Maine, has said she was working on a bill to reimburse home health care telehealth services (source).

“I plan to introduce a bill soon to create a framework to reimburse for telehealth services provided by home health agencies,” Collins said.

In the meantime, home health care agencies like Forever Young, which services patients in the greater Philadelphia area, including the surrounding suburban areas, continue to strive to match the standards of a pre-pandemic standard of care while working with an entirely new set of variables.

What You Need To Do To Combat COVID-19

To Our Employees:

We know some of you are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 (the new coronavirus) and how it may impact us here at Forever Young Home Care Agency. Ensuring our staff and consumers are in a safe and healthy environment is our first priority. At this time, we DO NOT have any cases in our Agency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended a variety of steps that we are implementing to help reduce the potential for the virus to enter our Agency. However, we need your help in battling COVID-19. Below are some examples of how you can help protect yourselves and consumers, as well as prevent the spread throughout the community.

  1. Notify us if you develop respiratory symptoms while at work. These include: cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, and/or shortness of breath.
  2. Practice proper hand washing hygiene. All employees should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol upon entering the homes of consumers and before and after interaction with consumers. Soap and water should be used specifically if hands are visibly dirty.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Please review the CDC’s information on coughing and sneezing etiquette.
  4. Perform routine environmental cleaning. Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the home, such as countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. No special cleaning is necessary for COVID-19.

Our Agency is following the recommendations of the CDC on using basic contact precautions to prevent the spread, which includes wearing gloves when interacting with residents who present symptoms—as we always do. We also are staying up to date with the CDC recommendations as they may continue to change. In addition, our Agency is in close contact with the local and state health department and are following their guidance.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at 267-288-5496

For additional information, please visit the CDC’s coronavirus disease information page.

Sincerely,

Forever Young Home Care Agency Inc.

Federal Cuts to Home Health Funding May Be Coming

seniors-face-higher-costs-on-medicaid-cutsFederal Medicare cuts may be on their way if CMS (The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) is able to “rebase” home health funding and cut other revenue within the system. These cuts may result in a 14% overall reduction to Medicare home health payments, causing negative Medicare margins in most U.S. States.

Seniors should be absolutely up in arms about these potential spending cuts as they may put small business operators out of service and greatly reduce the amount of home care services that are functioning in their community. This will greatly reduce choice, reliability, and quality in the services provided under the current home health funding system.

The government agency that oversees Medicare has proposed across-the-board cuts to home health care payments, which are today confronting the 3.5 million seniors who receive skilled home health care services each year.

On the heels of funding reductions totaling 22 per­cent since 2009, which amount to $72.5 billion over 10 years, Medicare home health payments are again on the chopping block.

The Centers for Medicare and Medic­aid Services, or CMS, is proposing to “rebase” home health funding at a rate set at the maximum level allowed by law, in addition to a host of other revenue cutting changes.

Analyses show these cuts will result in a 14 percent overall reduction to Medicare home health payments. Such drastic cuts will cause 47 out of 50 states, including Pennsylvania, to soon have negative Medicare margins.

In total, when coupled with cuts already underway, Medicare home health will experience $100 billion in cuts over 10 years.

Recently, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, acting as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, sent a letter to the CMS expressing concern for the proposed 14 percent cut to Medicare home health.

Similarly, a bipartisan group of 142 members of Congress recently sent a letter to CMS urging a more complete analysis of the proposed rule as well as its impact on beneficiaries and small businesses.

In September, the U.S. Small Business Administration expressed similar concerns in a letter to CMS that the proposed rule underestimates the impact the rebasing cuts will have on the nation’s small home health agencies.

Advocates for senior citizens including AARP as well as organizations representing physicians, nurses and veterans also have spoken out publicly about the impact of such deeps cuts on the nation’s vulnerable home health patient population.

The value of home health care to the Medicare program cannot be understated. As more seniors require care, we must be poised to provide the most clinically effective care in the most cost effective setting. As the Obama administration and Congress work toward improving health care delivery in America, home health care must be supported — not abated.

Reach out to your local representatives and let them know that cutting home health funding is not in your interests. Let them know that CMS needs to re-evaluate their position and analysis as it pertains to the of home care for seniors.

For more information about Home Health Care and Skilled Nursing contact us or call (267) 288-5496

Source: NOLA

Reducing Healthcare Spending, Provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare)

WP-health_costsOne of the main purposes of ObamaCare, also known by most people as the Affordable Care Act (ok not everyone knows), is reducing healthcare spending for Americans overall. Healthcare spending accounts for almost one-fifth of the overall US Economy. This is a massive number considering other countries spend significantly less and their quality of healthcare is not worse than America’s. In fact Business Insider ranked the US 37th in the world for overall healthcare system performance. YES, that means 36 countries have a better healthcare system than the US.

So what are we doing to fix this?

One of the ACA’s cost-cutting tools is financially penalizing hospitals by reducing government Medicare reimbursements to them if they have an excess number of patients who are released from the hospital and then readmitted within a month for heart attacks, heart failure and and pneumonia.

Another is requiring health insurers who spend less than 80 percent of the premiums they receive from customers on health benefits for them to reimburse some money to those customers. Insurers of large companies have to spend at least 85 percent of the premiums they receive on benefits or pay refunds.

In 2018, there will be a 40 percent excise tax slapped on health insurance plans whose premiums exceed $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. This tax on so-called Cadillac plans is designed to tamp down overuse of medical care by people with those plans.

The law also encourages hospitals, primary care physicians and other medical providers to join forces in so-called Accountable Care Organizations, whose goal is to coordinate care for their patients and, if they meet certain quality targets such as keeping those people healthy and out of the hospital, get paid more by Medicare.

We think, as the government works on reducing healthcare spending, decreasing hospital stays and hospital readmission, and overall healthcare spending, the need for in-home healthcare services is going to grow. This is a good sign for aging seniors that have spent countless days in and out of the hospital for trivial tests and procedures. Hopefully, the government will push to allow our skilled nurses and home health aides to handle as much of the peripheral medical tasks as possible. 

For more information contact us or call (267) 288-5496

Source: CNBC

“Healthy Pennsylvania” – PA Seniors are Living Longer; Let’s Help Them Live Better Too!

health-pa-3-corbett1We promised to add some details on Tom Corbett’s Medicaid proposal in the days to come, so here is a closer look at the “Healthy Pennsylvania” proposal from Brian Duke, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging:

Pennsylvania’s seniors are living longer and it’s vital that we help them to live better, which is why Gov. Tom Corbett’s “Healthy Pennsylvania” proposal warrants a closer look.

Pennsylvania is the fourth grayest state in the nation. By 2015, nearly one in four Pennsylvanians will be age 60 or older, with health care needs that often differ significantly from the rest of the population. We need to preserve our Medicaid system to make sure we have resources available now and as the state’s senior population grows.

“Healthy Pennsylvania” creates a Long-Term Care Improvement Commission to explore how best to develop a coordinated, long-term care and support system. The commission will be tasked with making sure older adults and persons with disabilities receive the best possible care.

The commission’s first job will be to hear from doctors, social workers, advocates, providers and most importantly recipients themselves, to find out where the system isn’t measuring up and to examine innovative ways to deliver care.

It’s not enough to insure the uninsured. The coverage has to fit the needs of Pennsylvanians.

The article points to some important facts that seniors in PA should be aware of:

  • PA has one of the highest populations of rural residents in the nation, 48 of 67 counties are classified as rural in PA.
  • One in five of rural Pennsylvanians is a senior.
  • By 2015, nearly one in four Pennsylvanians will be age 60 or older.

For more information about Forever Young Home Health Care, Click Here or Call Us at (267) 288-5496

Source: PhillyBurbs.com

About Time: New Fair Labor Rule Gives Home Care Workers Get Wage Protection

Home Health Aide Makes a Bed For A PatientWell its about time. We have always prided ourselves on paying our home care workers and home health aides (HHA) above market rates, but apparently greed gets in the way for other companies. So we are pleased to announce that the Obama administration will no longer allow that practice, making minimum wage laws apply to home care workers, like the rest of the work force.

Until this rule, home care workers were compared to babysitters, who do not fall under the Fair Wage and Standards Act’s minimum wage policies. This distinction comes at an important time with home care workers on the rise as seniors who need in-home assistance rise. In our opinion, the work our home health aides do is much harder and more labor intensive than a babysitter. We are happy this administration finally sees it our way and makes the distinction.

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it was extending minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly two million home care workers.

Advocates for low-wage workers have pushed for this change, asserting that home care workers, who care for elderly and disabled Americans, were wrongly classified into the same “companionship services” category as baby sitters — a group that is exempt from minimum wage and overtime coverage. Under the new rule, home care aides, unlike baby sitters, would be covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the nation’s main wage and hour law.

In an unusual move, the administration said the new regulation would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2015, even though regulations often take effect 60 days after being issued. The delay until 2015 is to give families that use these attendants, as well as state Medicaid programs, time to prepare.

Sadly, the new regulation will not take effect until Jan 1, 2015. Which still gives these underpaying companies time to skirt under the law. But a change is coming, and we are happy to see it. 

For more information about becoming a Home Health Aide or to hire a Home Health Aide in the Philadelphia area, Bucks County, and/or Montgomery County, please contact Forever Young Home Health Care at info@foreveryoungPA.com or (267) 288-5496.

Source: New York Times

Source: Department of Labor

Tom Corbett Unveils Pennsylvania Medicaid Expansion Plan

tom-corbett-health-care-reform-medicaid-expansionIn light of all the ObamaCare news and panic, we took some time this week to understand how Tom Corbett’s new Medicaid Expansion Plan will affect our patients and their costs. Despite potential resistance from the Obama administration, the plan seems to have gained traction in Pennsylvania and numerous other states because it would extend coverage to many currently uninsured Americans. Here is are some key points from his plan and more details can be found at the source link below. 

Tom Corbett on Monday became the 10th Republican governor to back the expansion of Medicaid, the joint federal-state health program for the poor, under President Barack Obama’s health care law, proposing a set of reforms that would extend health coverage to more residents of the state.

Corbett outlined a plan that includes offering Medicaid to more Pennsylvanians by using private health insurance plans and instituting new requirements for all Medicaid enrollees, such as having them pay monthly premiums and demonstrate they are searching for jobs. The plan must pass the state legislature and also win approval from the federal government.

Under Corbett’s Medicaid plan, all Pennsylvania beneficiaries would have to pay a monthly premium, and healthy, uninsured, low-income people who are out out work would be required to prove they are seeking a job or participate in the state’s job-training programs. Corbett also proposes eliminating most co-payments, such as those for doctor visits, and would offer lower premiums for enrollees who participate in wellness programs. People deemed “medically frail” could receive traditional Medicaid coverage, rather than through the state’s federally-run health insurance exchange.

Corbett’s proposal calls for Medicaid premiums based on income and capped at $25 for a single person and $35 for a family per month, though they may rise over time based on inflation. Obamacare asks states to extend Medicaid to anyone who earns up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $15,282 for a single person this year.

Corbett’s plan could face resistance from the Obama administration, however. The requirement that Medicaid beneficiaries prove they are searching for employment would be unprecedented and is not allowed under federal law, said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute in Washington.

At Forever Young, our patients come first. We will keep an eye out on the news and updates with medicare and medicaid coverage as they happen and keep you posted. Check back soon and often. For more information about Forever Young Home Health Care and our services click here or call (267) 288-5496.

Article Source – Huffington Post