Illinois Hospital Referrals Must Go To Licensed Agencies

Home health industry advocates in the Land of Lincoln are cheering a newly approved bill relating to hospital referrals and licensed home health agencies.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law SB1676 on Aug. 21, which makes it so hospitals or other health care providers that receive state funding can’t refer a patient to an in-home care services agency unless the agency is licensed under the Home Health, Home Services, and Home Nursing Agency Licensing Act.

The amendment ensures patients are not referred to an unlicensed in-home care provider.

“There are a lot of providers in the underground market that are out there putting themselves out as providers. Unfortunately, they may not be licensed,” Phil Bongiorno, executive director of the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA), told Home Health Care News. “This is ensuring that hospitals are not referring to those unlicensed entities.”

HCAOA, which lobbied for the bill, called the signing a “huge win for home care providers in Illinois” in an Aug. 21 statement.

The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

However, not all the recent news out of the Illinois statehouse was equally celebrated. On Aug. 18, Rauner vetoed a bill that would have restricted the state’s ability to place a limit on the number of weekly hours a caregiver may work in the taxpayer-funded Illinois Home Services Program.

The rejection marks the latest blow in a long fight over whether in-home care workers can work overtime in Illinois. The state is also still licking its wounds from a two-year budget battle that left it unable to pay providers their Medicaid reimbursements on time. State lawmakers ultimately passed a budget on July 6.

In a veto message emailed to HHCN, the Governor’s office said the legislation would have placed “unreasonable restrictions on the state’s ability to manage the Home Services Program, both to ensure the safety of our residents and to control the program’s rising costs.”

This isn’t the first time Rauner has stymied overtime bills related to home health care. In January, he blocked a bill that would have prohibited Illinois from capping the number of weekly hours worked by individual providers. Then, in March, a state rules committee failed to stop the Illinois Department of Human Services from moving forward with a twice-deadlocked rule that prevents caregivers in the Home Services Program from working overtime.

Rauner also previously tried to block a pay increase for Illinois home care workers, but the Illinois Senate voted to override the veto last year.

But, there may be a silver lining. The Governor also touted a new policy from his administration that would allow for up to five hours of overtime without the need for approval.

“This overtime policy safeguards individual providers from being unnecessarily overworked and ensures that residents requiring long hours of care will have more than one person who understands their needs and who is capable of caring for them,” reads the statement from Rauner’s office. “In addition, the policy allows the state to limit overtime, and its costly impact, to only those situations when it is truly necessary—just as nearly every other employer in the country does.”

Written by Tim Regan

(Illinois statehouse photo via Flickr/justinstravels)

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