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-Sunday (June 5-7)
— Four home-based care agencies in the St. Louis, Missouri area are hiring a combined 1,000 new employees to meet demand. The spike in interest is caused by the safety concerns in facility-based settings during COVID-19. The four businesses — Assistance Home Care, Martha’s Hands, Right at Home and Seniors Home Care — collectively offer a wide range of home-based services.
— The U.S. Department of Labor has offered up grim reports, one after another, during the public health emergency. But some of the unemployment woes could be turning around, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia announced Friday in a press release. “Today’s report shows much higher job creation and lower unemployment than expected, reflecting that the re-opening of the economy in May was earlier, and more robust, than projected,” he said. “It appears the worst of the coronavirus’s impact on the nation’s job markets is behind us.”
— Evidation Health — a health care technology company — is pairing up with the U.S. government to develop a digital system designed to detect very early symptoms of COVID-19, particularly for health care workers. The project is receiving funding from both the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. The project uses wearable devices, in addition to self-reported data, to find cases of emerging symptoms.
— As with so many other parts of the health care system, the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted weaknesses and dilemmas associated with home-based care, reports The New York Times.
— The coronavirus has added new challenges to the recruiting and training of in-home care workers, according to experts. Many providers are turning to virtual recruiting and training methods for help.
What you need to know from Thursday (June 4)
— The federal government has updated its Nursing Home Compare database to include information on COVID-19 outbreaks at individual buildings nationwide, Skilled Nursing News reports. There’s no word yet on whether home health care providers will face a similar fate. Home Health Compare does not currently include COVID-19 data, but the CMS officials have told HHCN they will continue to examine policies and procedures for home health and other programs.
— The Senate unanimously passed a bill to reform certain commonly criticized aspects of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It now heads to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign the bill into law. Once passed, the legislation will give borrowers more time and flexibility to use PPP money, in addition to other allowances.
— Nursing homes and home health providers aren’t the only ones struggling to get enough COVID-19 tests for employees and patients. The VA health system is facing similar problems, according to the Military Times. So far, only about 12% of its workforce has been tested, with 1,500 positive tests and 32 staff COVID-19 deaths. Meanwhile, more than 195,000 patients have been tested, many of whom are registered to the VA health system but receiving care at home, officials told the news outlet. About 7.5% of that group tested positive, with 1,560 related deaths.
— Data continues to prove the nation’s widespread adoption of telehealth. For example, a new study from Parks Associates shows that about 15% of U.S. broadband households reported an increase in the use of telehealth as a result of the COVID-19 emergency between March 8 and April 3.
— While the coronavirus has evolved, it hasn’t changed in any meaningful way for humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In other words, the coronavirus has not mutated in a way to affect how quickly it spreads or how severely it can harm humans, NBC reports.
What you need to know from Wednesday (June 3)
— CMS Administrator Seema Verma discussed the shift toward value-based care in a Health Affairs op-ed published Wednesday. “Under the Trump Administration, [CMS] has been … advancing innovative payment and service delivery models to help move our health care system from one that pays for volume to one that rewards providers for keeping patients healthy, improving health outcomes, and lowering costs,” Verma wrote. “The need for this transformation is even greater as our country confronts not just the coronavirus but the possibility of future pandemics.”
— BrightStar Care founder and CEO Shelly Sun spoke to Yahoo News about her company’s ongoing coronavirus response. During the nearly 8-minute interview, Sun touched on BrightStar Care’s PPE investment and workforce strategy. “We made sure that we changed our population of caregivers,” Sun told Yahoo News. “So caregivers that were doing care with a senior were not also going into other settings where there could be further and greater exposure, trying to both keep our clients safe but also knowing that we had a responsibility as best we could to keep our caregivers safe as well.”
— More than 600 nurses worldwide are known to have died from COVID-19, according to a new report from the International Council of Nurses. The organization estimates the virus has infected roughly 450,000 health care workers globally.
— A New York Times investigation found that the CDC made multiple missteps that “undermined America’s response to the most urgent public health emergency in the agency’s 74-year history.” Those missteps included relying on aging data systems with blindspots and being slow to respond due to a risk-averse culture.
What you need to know from Tuesday (June 2)
— The coronavirus’s impact on telehealth has been nothing short of astonishing. Nationwide, telehealth claim lines increased 4,347% between March 2019 and March 2020, according to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. A claim line is an individual service listed on an insurance claim. According to the tracker, telehealth claim lines made up 0.17% of all medical claim lines in March 2019, compared to 7.52% in March 2020.
— Many stakeholders predict telehealth is here to stay, including the management consulting firm McKinsey. According to a McKinsey report summarized by MobiHealthNews, as much as $250 billion of current U.S. health care spending could be virtualized. That’s about 20% of all Medicare, Medicaid and commercial spending across outpatient, office and home health settings.
— Best procedures and practices for home-based care providers treating COVID-19 patients continue to change. For example, in New York State, the Department of Health has changed its tune on testing requirements for home care and hospice personnel working in senior care facilities. Once effective, workers who spend four or more days per week in a senior care facility will have to be tested for the COVID-19 virus twice per week. If they work there less than four days per week, they’ll have to be tested once per week.
— Meanwhile, in other states, it’s the funding that’s changing. For example, Missouri’s governor reduced home- and community-based care funding by $6 million because of coronavirus-related revenue drops, according to the Associated Press. The decrease was part of a larger $209 million 2020 budget cut in the state.
— Tuesday, eight states and Washington, D.C., went to the polls for their primaries, many of which were originally rescheduled because of the COVID-19 virus. Meanwhile, protests over police treatment of black Americans have some concerned about the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has disproportionately affected people of color. Still, while encouraging precautions, some health experts support the demonstrations, saying racism also poses a public health risk.
What you need to know from Monday (June 1)
— Nearly 26,000 people have died of COVID-19 in nursing homes through mid-May, according to newly released federal data.
— A report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released Monday projects that U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) will drop by nearly $16 trillion over the next decade because of the coronavirus and its far-reaching consequences.
— In light of that CBO report, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for Congress to “act with a fierce sense of urgency” and pass a new round of coronavirus relief legislation. The Washington Post has the story here.
— A proposal by presidential candidate Joe Biden that gives Americans between the ages of 60 and 64 the option of buying into Medicare is building steam, according to Forbes. The newfound support comes as more people lose job-sponsored health coverage amid the economic chaos created by the coronavirus.
— Global health service company Cigna (NYSE: CI) announced it is expanding its support for members during the COVID-19 emergency by eliminating cost-sharing for all primary care, specialty care and behavioral health care in-office or telehealth visits for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 care. The move is effective immediately.
— President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. is cutting all ties to the World Health Organization (WHO), according to The Guardian. The announcement comes three weeks ahead of a deadline Trump established down in early May.
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