Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) has been a part of arguably the biggest home health story this year. UnitedHealth Group’s (NYSE: UNH) Optum agreed to acquire the company in June.
But, on the ground, it’s still just another home health and hospice provider trying to best deal with the headwinds that come with operating in 2023.
Amid the chaos, Geoff Abraskin – the president of hospice at Amedisys – told Home Health Care News that capacity management remains the no. 1 issue.
“That’s still the biggest challenge in home health,” he said last month. “But we’re seeing some green shoots from people applying for jobs. We actually just had our best two months in terms of fills. We’re seeing contractor costs coming down, so that’s a big positive for us. But overall, there’s so many people that need home health today, and there’s just X number of capacity. We’re hiring more people. We just can’t hire fast enough.”
Abraskin was a regional senior vice president at Amedisys before recently becoming the president of hospice.
Amedisys’ partnership with connectRN is also helping out with capacity management, he said. A staffing platform, connectRN helps Amedisys staff cases it wouldn’t otherwise be able to. It also helps Amedisys workers find extra shifts when they’re available.
Utilization of the connectRN platform has ticked up for Amedisys, and margins have improved because of that. Moving forward, the company is looking at how the connectRN platform could help out with the hospice segment and Contessa Health, which is the high-acuity arm of Amedisys.
In terms of how any potential rate cuts will affect Amedisys’ capacity, Abraskin is confident the company can weather the storm given its scale.
“The rate cut is going to be hurtful to our whole industry,” Abraskin said. “The big companies, we’re going to be okay. We have the ability and the the size to withstand that, but it’s going to hurt a lot of the mom-and-pops.”
What Amedisys is focused on, especially when it comes to capacity management, is the growing prevalence of Medicare Advantage (MA).
While it’s contractually obligated to see members from the MA plans it contracts with, the company is trying to make those contracts more risk- and value-based.
“We’ve worked really closely with some payers to get some more risk-based agreements, which have been great,” Abraskin said. “We’re getting paid for quality.”
Specifically, in a pilot in Pennsylvania with Aetna, Amedisys was able to reduce hospitalization rates by 3.5%.
It has also doubled its admissions with Highmark Health in Pennsylvania year over year. Those two have now entered into an episodic payment model, which is the model most home health providers prefer.
The other partners Amedisys needs to keep happy, though, are health systems. When capacity management is the no. 1 issue – and referral rejection rates are at an all-time high – keeping those relationships solid can be tough for home health providers.
In Abraskin’s eyes, it all starts with transparency.
“You just need to be transparent,” he said. “If you’re truly in a partnership, there’s going to be an understanding. Just like hospitals go on diversion – if their ED is full, for example – home health does the same thing. So, we’re in the same boat as them. We just try to be very proactive and upfront with our capacity or limitations.”