During this critical time, Home Health Care News remains committed to bringing you all the essential news related to home-based care operations. At the same time, we also recognize the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to our regular content, we’ll continue to highlight industry-related developments and mitigation strategies in this rolling bulletin.
What you need to know from Friday through Sunday (May 29-31)
— To address the additional costs associated with serving COVID-positive beneficiaries, North Carolina’s Medicaid program is implementing a targeted rate increase and up to 40 additional billable hours per month only for in-home personal care services providers. The base rate increase is $8.25 per 15 minutes — or $33 per hour. Full details are available here.
— At least 294 health care workers have died from the COVID-19 virus after fighting it on the front lines, according to recently released CDC data. The National Nurses Union says the rising total is a consequence of PPE shortages.
— The list of health care organizations returning Provider Relief Fund money is growing, Business Insider reported. DaVita, Cigna and Walmart are all reportedly sending their COVID-19 relief funding back.
— Washington, D.C.-based trade group LeadingAge sent a letter to Congress calling for further support for aging services organizations. Among its recommendations, LeadingAge said Congress should help in-home care organizations cover the cost of testing for staff, including repeat testing. Coverage for multiple tests by insurance is not guaranteed and does not cover ancillary costs, LeadingAge pointed out in the letter.
— In New York, rising PPE prices, an increase in low utilization payment adjustment (LUPA) claims and other factors are expected to cost home-based care providers $200 million in 2020 losses, according to financial estimates by the Home Care Association of New York State (HCA-NYS). HHCN has the story here.
What you need to know from Thursday (May 28):
— Many home health care agencies in Ohio are in financial turmoil that could lead to closures, ABC Cleveland reports. State budget cutbacks, which are becoming widespread in the U.S., are hurting providers — and the COVID-19-specific funding isn’t making up for it. Medicaid providers, in particular, are seeing a lack in funding. One in four Ohioans currently receive health insurance through Medicaid, according to the report.
— The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that providers in need of further payments from the additional $20 billion in the Provider Relief Fund must attest to the terms and conditions and submit revenue information by June 3.
— Nursing homes represent just 0.6% of the population, but account for over 40% of the COVID-19-related deaths thus far. On Wednesday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma disputed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s assertion that the state’s decision to admit discharged COVID-19 patients back into nursing homes was following the Trump administration’s guidance. Verma told Fox News Radio that she nor President Trump himself instructed governors to do so.
— Over 2 million more Americans filed for unemployment claims last week, bringing the 10-week total over 40 million, according to the Department of Labor.
— The stock market has had a good run over the past three days, however. A week of gains has brought the S&P 500 to its highest level since March, according to the New York Times.
What you need to know from Wednesday (May 27):
— Corporate giants are betting on COVID-19 having a lasting impact on health care, even after the virus is gone. Take CVS Health Corp. (NYSE: CVS), for example. The company has expanded its home-based care offerings amid the coronavirus, while Executive Vice President of Specialty Pharmacy Prem Shah told MedCity News the future of health care is at home.
— Prime Home Health Services — a New York-based home care company — has launched a new remote monitoring service for COVID-19 to track coronavirus patient progress while cutting down transmission risks.
— A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that nearly half of all Americans — 48% — have skipped or postponed their medical care as a result of the COVID-19 virus.
— The government has started unveiling its plan to reopen the nation’s nursing homes, but stakeholders say skilled nursing facilities don’t have the kind of federal assistance they need to make it happen. “I would just say at the outset that we do want to have a plan to safely reopen nursing homes,” LeadingAge CEO Katie Smith Sloan told Skilled Nursing News. “But there are just too many homes out there, and other aging services providers, that are still desperately in need of testing and personal protective equipment. And without those, it is virtually impossible to reopen nursing homes safely.”
— As more states reopen, the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise. The coronavirus death toll has surpassed 100,000, with 20 U.S. states reporting increases in new cases of COVID-19 last week, according to a Reuters analysis. That’s up from 13 states a week earlier.
What you need to know from Tuesday (May 26):
— In a newly released survey from the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), 60% of participating hospices said they expect to see a decrease in annual revenue in 2020, with more than one-quarter expecting a decrease of 15% or more. At the same time, over 80% of the surveyed hospices expect costs for 2020 to increase, with PPE being the main driver, followed by staffing costs and reduced referrals.
— Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of both the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), joined Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday to discuss the latest on COVID-19 in America’s long-term care facilities. During the conversation, Parkinson suggested that the country’s immediate focus on hospitals caused nursing homes to be left behind. “The country was too concerned with hospitals being overrun and there were consequences to that,” he said. “One of the consequences is that nursing homes were left out. Our residents were not a high priority for testing. We weren’t given the equipment that we needed.” Nursing homes have received additional support, including $4.8 billion from the federal government, since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Home health providers, however, still appear to be on the back burner compared to their nursing home and hospital peers.
— Countries with declining COVID-19 cases could still see an “immediate second peak” later in 2020 if they prematurely ease up on mitigation strategies, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Home health providers in reopening states may face similar issues.
— The Ohio Department of Aging announced has received a $1.7 million federal grant to strengthen services that support the health, safety and independence of older Ohioans challenged by the coronavirus public health emergency.
— California seniors are worried about budget cuts in California. In his latest budget proposal, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, called for cutting the number of caregiving hours that each resident receives under California’s In-Home Supportive Services program by 7%, according to The Sacramento Bee. Meanwhile, the budget proposal seeks to entirely cut the state’s adult day health care program, which helps provide care for about 36,000 people.
— President Donald Trump has issued a proclamation suspending entry into the United States for any individual who has been in Brazil within 14 days immediately preceding their attempt to enter the U.S., CNN reported. While the move doesn’t immediately impact home health or home care providers, it is an example of how the emerging immigration policies shaped by the coronavirus could pose roadblocks to the in-home care industry’s workforce.
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