From Death Doulas to Minimum Wage Hikes: 10 Memorable Stories from 2018

Home Health Care News’ most-read stories of 2018 largely focused on Medicare Advantage changes, payment updates and regulatory initiatives. But every year there are also stories that don’t make our most-read list that we feel are deserving of another look.

These stories highlight interesting trends, shed light on important topics and capture some of the most pressing issues in home-based care from 2018:

1. Home Health Wields Political Clout to Shape Policy

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Over the past few decades, the home health industry has steadily cultivated its political clout on Capitol Hill, thanks to both individual provider efforts and advocacy from organization such as the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). HHCN took an in-depth look at home health care’s rise to Washington, D.C., prominence here, including a review of several years’ worth of lobbying data.

2. OIG Special Agents Sound Off on Hospice Fraud, CMS Rules

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) made combating fraud, waste and abuse in the hospice industry a top priority in 2018, with plans to continue aggressive oversight next year as well. HHCN caught up with OIG officials — including an undercover special agent — to learn all about the watchdog’s ongoing operations.

3. Death Doulas Gain Buzz, Start Making Hospice Connections

Hiring a birth doula to assist with childbirth has grown increasingly popular. A new type of doula — a “death doula” — gained notoriety in 2018. HHCN highlighted the responsibilities of death doulas and gauged hospice industry interest in working with them.

4. Inside Amedisys’ Industry-Shaping Play for Compassionate Care Hospice

It takes a certain kind of transaction to warrant end-of-the-year favorites consideration — and this one definitely fits the bill. In October, Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) announced plans to acquire New Jersey-based Compassionate Care Hospice for $340 million. Once finalized, the deal will make Amedisys the third-largest hospice provider in the nation. In addition to being a big deal for Amedisys, the acquisition also reflects the overall provider trend of building out operations across the entire continuum of care. Of course, it’s also an example of 2018’s bustling M&A landscape and the sky-high valuation placed on hospice companies.

5. LHC Group CEO: New Payment Model Could Be ‘Penny Wise and Pound Foolish’

One of HHCN’s most popular Q&As from the past year was with Keith Myers, CEO and chairman of Lafayette, Louisiana-based LHC Group (Nasdaq: LHCG). The conversation focused on the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) and its behavioral adjustment aspect, which Myers called “penny wise and pound foolish.”

6. ResCare Crafts Strategy, Sets Goals to Reduce Turnover

ResCare Chief Human Resource Officer Sonny Terrill outlined the home-based care giant’s ambitious plans to curb employee turnover in this Q&A. HHCN could have easily chosen several other ResCare-related stories in this spot, as 2018 was a busy year for the Louisville, Kentucky-based company, which rebranded to BrightSpring in August, and then merged with LTC pharmacy company PharMerica in December. “We really believe that pharmacy is essential and, in many ways, is the front lines in keeping patients out of the emergency room and out of the hospital,” BrightSpring CEO Jon Rousseau told HHCN.

7. Honor Faces Scrutiny Over Growing Partnership Model

HHCN went inside the Honor Care Network in this story to answer industry questions about the San Francisco-based technology startup’s business model. This wasn’t one of HHCN’s most-read stories in 2018, but it was certainly one of the stories that readers most engaged with.

8. Home Care Companies Increase Use of Noncompetes, Other Contract Restrictions

For decades, companies have used noncompete clauses to retain top executives and protect trade secrets. HHCN looked at how similar agreements are becoming more common among low-wage home care workers, though experts say that can be a double-edged sword.

9. Amazon’s $15 Minimum Wage Turns Up the Heat on Home Care Providers

Sometimes important news doesn’t even have to do with the home health, home care or hospice industries, as made evident by this story. In October, online retail behemoth Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) announced it was increasing its minimum wage to $15 an hour across its operations. The pledge put further pressure on the home-based care sector, which competes with Amazon in the tight labor market for low-wage workers.

10. NAHC President on Pre-Claim’s Chilling Effect, End of the Hospice Honeymoon

Another one of HHCN’s favorite interviews in 2018 was with NAHC President Bill Dombi. Among the topics discussed: how the “hospice honeymoon” was coming to an end.

Written by Robert Holly

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