Our weekly list of news, reports, and information about home health and hospice care. Learn about new studies, trends, CMS regulations and more.
After days of tense negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, the U.S. Senate has passed a $2 trillion bill designed to boost the national economy during the COVID-19 crisis. The legislation contains language that would allow hospice providers to perform face-to-face encounters via telehealth as well as a suspension of payment sequestration. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also called the CARES ACT, is designed to provide aid to businesses and individuals reeling from the impact of the COVID-Pandemic. “At last, we have a deal. After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.
The House of Representatives passed a $2 trillion stimulus package Friday, officially clearing one of the last major hurdles for the emergency bill set to aid both American companies and individuals during the COVID-19 crisis. The record-breaking stimulus package also includes several provisions aimed at home health providers. Now signed into law, it will likely change how the home-based care industry operates — both on a permanent and temporary basis. President Donald Trump signed off on the stimulus hours after the House vote.
Growing patient and family concerns about safety are among the many challenges the end-of-life care community is facing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As hospice providers meet patient care needs during the outbreak, an added challenge is alleviating patient concerns about staff coming into the home. As the novel virus continues to spread, so do ongoing updates on the disease’s mode of transmission, symptoms, progression, incubation period, treatments, and possible long-term effects. Hospice patients are among the highest risk population, and updates continue with recommendations and guidelines for providing care. The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (CMS) issued interim infection prevention and control guidance last month for home- and community-based health care personnel that includes information on worker and patient safety as well as screening recommendations. “The federal government is revising new rules for providers and changing requirements, such as waiving restrictions in order to increase access of telehealth measures,” said Thomas Cornwell, M.D., executive chairman of Home Centered Care Institute (HCCI), founder of Northwestern Medicine HomeCare Physicians and senior medical director of Village Medical at Home, part of Chicago-based VillageMD. “To protect both the provider and patient, pre-screening questions can help determine the level of risk for COVID-19 prior to the home visitation. Questions can include risk assessments such as respiratory symptoms.”
Though somewhat overshadowed by the COVID-19 crisis, Congress has reauthorized the Older Americans Act, which provides funds to services for seniors, including those designed to help them age in place. Some provisions of the act allocate dollars to community-based programs that provide meals, transportation and other social determinants of health, allowing seniors to remain in their homes where they later may receive hospice care. The law, which originally passed in 1965, established the U.S. Administration of Aging, which works in concert with state agencies on aging as well as local entities. The recently passed reauthorization bill extends the funds for another five years. The revised law increases spending by 35% and includes additional programs to address social determinants of health as well as social isolation among seniors. “Seniors have served our communities for decades and need our support now more than ever,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), chair of the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. “Strengthening programs that benefit our seniors has long been one of my top priorities, and I’m glad this significant update I led to the Older Americans Act is now law. It will provide a strong foundation to help meet the needs of seniors during this pandemic and beyond. I’m grateful that this updated bipartisan law will support Meals on Wheels, fight elder abuse, and help to address social isolation. At this time in our country, it’s especially important that we care for those who cared for us.”