As most states have fully reopened and the larger push towards normalcy continues, home health providers are still reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 emergency. In fact, more than 82% of home health providers reported revenue reductions in May.
That’s according to a new survey conducted from June 3 to June 18 by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization. The survey — released Tuesday — gathered responses from more than 580 home health respondents, breaking down how the coronavirus has affected their bottom lines.
Through the survey, a significant portion of providers said the public health emergency continues to disrupt care delivery and financial stability, with roughly eight out of 10 respondents reporting a median revenue reduction of between 15% and 20%.
“Home health agencies need financial supports and Medicare policy relief in order to continue to serve COVID-19 infected patients, as well as the other 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who utilize cost-effective, high-quality care at home each year,” NAHC President William A. Dombi said in a statement.
For providers operating in COVID-19 hot spots, such as New York and New Jersey, 45.8% reported revenue reductions of more than 15%.
Overall, a decline in new patient admissions and patients refusing visits due to fear of contracting the virus are the two main factors that contributed to the revenue reductions for providers. Patients refusing care often triggers low-utilization payment adjustments (LUPAs), an area that continues to be a pain point for providers.
About 67.2% of providers surveyed reported decreases in admissions, with nearly half seeing reductions that surpassed 15%.
Additionally, the survey found that the admission-refusal rate of prospective patients in May checked in at 9.38% of referred patients. Among those patients on service, 9.51% of the physician-ordered visits were rejected by the patients.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, lower revenue and a decrease in care demand have resulted in providers cutting staff. About 43% of providers surveyed by NAHC reported reductions in clinical staff, with 47% reporting reductions in administrative staff.
Aside from revenue and care disruption, providers expect COVID-19 related expenses to result in an annual service-cost increase of 9.69%. The cost increase surpasses the financial supports that providers have received through the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund in April, according to NAHC.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, providers have positioned themselves as care options amid increasing hospital over-capacity challenges.
The survey found that more than 60% of providers are serving actively infected COVID-19 patients. In New York and New Jersey, this percentage is even higher, with more than 82% of providers caring for COVID-19 patients during May.
One takeaway from these findings is that home health is becoming an important resource when it comes to caring for Medicare beneficiaries that have contracted the virus. In general, the majority of these patients — whose age tends to be 65 and older — face higher risks in relation to COVID-19.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) also continues to be a challenge for many home health agencies.
Of the providers that participated in NAHC’s survey, 42% said they have less than 20 days supply of PPE on hand. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they have less than a 30-day supply on hand.