NAHC calls on members to press Congress on Choose Home bill

The National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) is issuing an urgent call to action, imploring members to lobby lawmakers on the recently introduced Choose Home legislation. 

“You’re not the only ones asking Congress to do things. This is why you have to be extraordinarily loud,” NAHC President William Dombi told members Sunday evening at NAHC’s annual Financial Management Conference in Chicago.

On Monday, during the conference, Susan Ponder-Stensel, president and CEO of hospice and palliative care company Alivia Care, echoed Dombi’s comments. Ponder-Stensel said a new generation of patients is opting for more personal choice when it comes to healthcare, and providers must respond to their demands.

“What we are experiencing as healthcare providers is that caregivers and patients want care when they want it, where they need it and what is most convenient for them,” Ponder-Stensel said during a lunch session.

Last Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Choose Home Care Act of 2021, which lets Medicare patients receive extended care services as an add-on to the existing Medicare home health benefit for 30 days following a hospital discharge. The legislation would allow some beneficiaries to receive skilled nursing care in their homes, rather than in facilities.

Dombi said the legislation would modernize healthcare and represent a “quantum leap” for the home care industry. An analysis of the legislation commissioned by the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare found it could save Medicare approximately $247 million annually in avoided stays in skilled nursing facilities.

While Choose Home would be a boon to the home healthcare industry, it could also be difficult for some agencies to implement quickly. Bruce Greenstein, executive vice president of strategy and innovation for LHC Group, told the audience home health agencies will have to offer a range of services many don’t already provide. Those services include everything from meals to respite care to non-emergency transportation.

“Having a system to be able to deploy nurses quickly and then personal care quickly, having technology for remote patient monitoring. That is the piece that becomes tricky,” Greenstein said.

Dombi told members who don’t provide personal care services now to begin thinking about partnering with home care agencies if they want to participate in Choose Home.

“This is not for every home health agency. This is going to take a structured change, it’s going to take enough volume to be able to handle it,” Dombi explained. “So not everybody can do it, but there is room for partnering.”

An analysis two years ago of Medicare claims data based on patient frailty and needs found a 34% overlap between patients who went to skilled nursing facilities and those who received home health care following a hospital stay.

“Some portion of that population is our target group,” Greenstein said.

Choose Home has also garnered support from LeadingAge and the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare.