The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is making ownership data for all Medicare-certified home health and hospice agencies publicly available.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the news early Thursday.
Anyone can now review “detailed information on the ownership of more than 6,000 hospices and 11,000 home health agencies,” according to CMS. HHS is doing so in the name of “promoting competition” and “protecting consumers.”
HHS and CMS did the same for more than 15,000 nursing homes in September of last year, and they have done so for hospitals in the past as well.
“It’s plain and simple: families deserve transparency when making decisions about hospice and home health care for their loved ones,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “President Biden has called for unprecedented action to increase transparency – and we are making more data publicly available than ever before. Shining a light on ownership data is good for families, good for researchers, and good for enforcement agencies.”
Among the ownership details that will now be publicly available:
– Enrollment information such as organization name, type, practice location addresses, National Provider Identifier (NPI), CMS Certification Number (CCN)
– Detailed information about each owner, including whether the owner is a company or an individual, as well as whether there’s a direct or indirect owner
– Data on M&A, consolidations and changes of ownership since 2016 for all home health and hospice agencies
“Transitioning to hospice care is often an emotionally overwhelming time for many families,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement. “Making this data public increases transparency, giving families the information needed to help them identify the best care for their loved one. Providing information is a hallmark of this administration’s efforts to improve care because we understand that having good information allows people to make the best choices possible.”
Because home health and hospice – at times – have gained the stigma of being subsectors rife with fraud, the industry may see this as a welcomed development. The more transparency, the better.
Plus, again, other health care subsectors have already been subjected to this.
As for those that have gone through it, some skilled nursing facility stakeholders did have qualms about how certain ownership was labeled. For instance, distinguishing between private capital, private equity and REITs.
On his end, National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) President William A. Dombi thinks Thursday’s news is a step in the right direction.
“We appreciate the increased transparency that CMS offers with its home health agency and hospice ownership data,” he said. “It is clear that CMS is well positioned to evaluate the concerns we previously brought to its attention regarding the surge in hospice growth in several localities that raise program integrity questions. We will continue to explore this database and its potential uses by the public.”