Layoffs, Closures and Threats: Home Health Care News’ Most Popular Stories of 2014

Policy changes, blockbuster mergers and acquisitions, as well as layoffs, closings and caregiver labor debates characterized the home health and hospice sector in 2014.

Mounting reimbursement pressures forced some of the nation’s largest provider to shutter operations and lay off hundreds at some locations, while other big players turned to the acquisition market to fuel their growth this year. 

Meanwhile, the industry continues to operate in the face of an aging population unlike anything the country has ever seen, and it’s trying to do so as more regulations make their way from Washington and impact the day-to-day operations of their businesses. 

But while there will be much to behold in 2015, the year in review for 2014 can be illustrated by the most popular stories read by Home Health Care News readers this past year.

A number of the top-read HHCN stories this year touched on themes of multi-million-dollar acquisitions, a slew of policy changes, layoffs and branch closings from some of the largest providers, as well as the biggest threats the home health care industry faces in 2014 and beyond. 

Without further ado, here are the most popular stories grabbing HHCN readers’ attention in 2014:

#10. March 5—Obama’s 2015 Budget Proposes $98 Billion More of Home Health Cuts

The Obama Administration’s proposed budget for 2015 had the home health industry facing up to nearly $200 billion over the next decade. Needless to say, industry advocates voiced their concerns over the proposal.

#9. August 7—CMS Issues 4 Home Health Policy Change Requests

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued four change requests that provided guidance on various home health policy issues, including claims processing, increasing compliance and preventing program vulnerability. 

#8. October 27—Encompass Home Health Seeks Buyer, $700 Million Price Tag 

Dallas-based Encompass Home Health sparked reader interest when rumors first swirled that the company was seeking a buyer for its home health operations to the tune of $700 million. A month later, it surfaced that HealthSouth Corporation (NYSE: HLS) agreed to buy the company for approximately $750 million

#7. June 30—Kindred to Gentiva: Don’t Acquire Amedisys 

In one of the most entertaining stories of the year, Kindred Healthcare’s (NYSE: KND) acquisition pursuit of Gentiva Health Services (NASDAQ: GTIV) featured months of back and forth, rebuffed purchase proposals, and consolidation rumors from the home health industry’s heaviest hitters.

#6. June 13—CMS Reverses Face-to-Face Policy for Home Health Care Services 

In a letter sent to the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, CMS said it would reverse its face-to-face requirement for Medicare Advantage (MA) plan members receiving home health care services—a correction from a previous CMS letter for the 2015 rates for these plans. 

#5. October 22—3 Threats Facing the Home Health Care Industry 

A massive aging population, health care reforms and caregiver labor rules stand to be the biggest looming threats to the home health industry and can have serious implications in 2015 and beyond. 

#4. July 31—Illinois Home Health Care Nurse Charged in $20 Million Fraud Scheme 

A registered-nurse who operated a suburban Illinois home health care agency was indicted for her alleged involvement in a home health care fraud scheme where more than 300 agencies submitted false claims to Medicare totaling more than $20 million from 2013 to 2014.

#3. April 1—Amedisys to Close, Consolidate 54 Home Care Locations 

Don’t be fooled by the date this story was published. Amedisys, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMED), one of the nation’s largest home health providers, surprised the industry when it announced it would close and consolidate 54 of its home health and hospice locations across the country. 

#2. April 16—Visiting Nurse Service of New York to Cut 775 Jobs in Mass Layoff 

In another surprising announcement in April, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York declared plans to cut 775 jobs, citing significant and ongoing changes to the home- and community-based health system as a result of the Affordable Care Act. 

#1. February 6—Gentiva Laying Off Hundreds, Closing 46 Home Health Branches 

Just months before Amedisys said it would close/consolidate various locations nationwide, Gentiva announced plans to close nearly 50 of its home health branches across the country, laying off hundreds of workers in the process. Blaming the closures on the impact of Medicare home health reimbursement rebasing, Gentiva’s move made headlines and was the most popular post on Home Health Care News in 2014.

Editor’s note: The most popular stories list is based on traffic data received on Home Health Care News content compiled beginning January 1, 2014.

Written by Jason Oliva