Bill Giving NPs More Home Health Power Gains Momentum

A bill that would allow nurse practitioners to certify Medicare home health services is gaining momentum as lawmakers continue to pen their support for the legislation, according to the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).

As of Oct. 9, seven additional members of the United States House of Representatives and one more member of the U.S. Senate were officially listed as cosponsors of the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, a measure aiming to permit nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives to sign off on home health care plans and authorize Medicare patients for home health benefits. This bumps the number of cosponsors to 147 in the House and 38 in the Senate, according to a news release.

Currently, nurse practitioners are prohibited from certifying home health benefits and approving care plans. But with more people relying on nurse practitioners as their primary care source, the legislation is crucial within the home care community, NAHC stated in the release.

The measure was introduced in February, and the likelihood of its advancement is increasing, particularly given the recent wave of bipartisan support. Additional cosponsors could help to propel the legislation through the committee process and receive a score from the Congressional Budget Office, according to NAHC.

NAHC didn’t immediately respond to Home Health Care News’ request for additional comment on the status of the measure.

Last month, NAHC met with CBO officials to discuss cost and savings implications of the bill. Specifically, NAHC said the bill could reduce Medicare spending through a shift in physician billings to nurse practitioner billings, which are reimbursed at 85% of the physician payment rates for certification and care plan oversight.

NAHC also said the changes called for in the legislation could increase efficiency in the home care space. Nurse practitioners now have to secure physicians to authorize care for their patients, but under the proposal, nurse practitioners could substitute for physicians and therefore decrease physician utilization.

The bill is now under review at CBO, according to NAHC.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt