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Home health focus of two bills

April 13, 2015
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Two U.S. senators and three U.S. congressmen have re-introduced reintroduced the Home Health Care Planning and Improvement Act of 2015 (S. 578) in an effort to improve access to home health services under Medicare.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL). It would allow advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives, as well as physician assistants, to order home health services under Medicare according to state law.

The legislation is supported by the Eldercare Workfoce Alliance, comprised of 31 national organizations, which maintains that changing the Medicare law to allow APRNs to sign home health plans of care and certify Medicare patients for the home health benefit is especially important in underserved areas where access to physicians is limited.

Meanwhile, LeadingAge is endorsing the Community-Based Independence for Seniors Act (S. 704), introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). The bill would help prevent the need for nursing home care by establishing a new Community-Based Institutional Special Needs Plan (CBI-SNP) demonstration program that would provide for home- and community-based services for low-income, Medicare-only beneficiaries who need help with two or more activities of daily living.

If the bill passes and is signed into law, the program would operate in up to five states under Medicare Advantage plans that have experience caring for the frail population, and it would generate evidence related to an alternative payment methodology that could result in savings for both states and the federal government. One study from Avalere Health shows four-year savings of nearly $60 million for a demonstration of 5,000 Medicare members by postponing or preventing hospitalization and institutionalization, LeadingAge notes.

“We are excited about the possibilities for beneficiaries as a result of this bill,” said LeadingAge CEO and President Larry Minnix. “We know that seniors want to remain in their homes as long as possible, and this help them do just that. Furthermore, the bill addresses an alternative way to save money, and we know that folks on both sides of the aisle can agree on this.”

LeadingAge is urging legislators to include the bipartisan S. 704 in the next Medicare reform legislation. The organization is a member of the Coalition to Promote Independence in Medicare, which also endorses the act.