Home Health & Hospice Weekly News Roundup

Our weekly list of news, reports, and information about home health and hospice care. Learn about new studies, trends, CMS regulations and more.

Home Healthcare Agency to Take COVID-19 Referrals from Hospitals

The Visiting Nurse Service of New York is accepting COVID-19 referrals from local hospitals. The goal is to offset some of the burden. The approach comes with challenges, however. "We want to do everything possible to alleviate the strain on the New York metro area's hospital system," said Michael Bernstein, executive vice president, and chief administrative officer at VNSNY. For COVID-19 patients who are stable enough to be discharged after a hospital stay, VNSNY will provide home care for their flulike symptoms and underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The intent is to free up hospital beds for patients who are in serious condition and need ventilators. "We are working rapidly to deploy more telehealth and remote patient visits," Bernstein said. Using virtual services for some routine visits enables more staff members to visit COVID-19 patients' homes. The organization spent about $200,000—an unbudgeted expense—to secure additional tablets and equipment for remote patient monitoring, he said. And it's spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more to buy personal protective equipment. On top of masks, gowns, and gloves, equipment needed to safely care for COVID-19 patients in their home includes disposable thermometers, stethoscopes and blood-pressure cuffs.

How Cash-Strapped Home Health Agencies Can Take Advantage of the CARES Act

On Friday, President Donald Trump’s signature finalized a record-breaking $2 trillion stimulus package, officially titled the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The act’s aim: to provide much needed financial relief to both individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. While the CARES Act does a number of things, it specifically sets aside an estimated $350 billion for small businesses in the form of loans. If home-based care agencies wish to capitalize on those resources, they need to act quickly, financial experts warn. Once the $350 billion is gone — it’s gone for good. With that in mind, providers in need of relief should put their wheels into motion now, Shep Harris, a loan officer at Live Oak Bank, told Home Health Care News. "My opinion is that it’ll be kind of first-come, first-serve,” Harris said. “Now, will they step up and sign something else if there’s a long list thereafter? Who knows. But I wouldn’t want to be on that side of the [things]. I wouldn’t want to take that risk.”

Home Health Care Workers Are Taking Care of America's Most Vulnerable – and They're Doing It Without PPE

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to flood hospitals in the U.S., governments, businesses, and communities have rallied to provide overburdened emergency care staff with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). But for the more than 3.2 million home health care workers who care for more than 8.3 million people in the U.S., access to PPE remains relatively scarce. "I buy [the masks] myself," said Stephanie Williams, a 58-year-old home health care worker in Philadelphia, where more than 1,850 people have been infected and at least 13 people have died from coronavirus. "I have to use the same masks for my clients. I'm paying out-of-pocket and I just can't afford it, especially on an everyday basis," she added. More than 7,000 people nationwide have died from coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins. The majority of the people infected and who have died are 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This demographic makes up 22.7% of the U.S. population and is most likely to need home health care, according to the Census Bureau.

CMS Releases Waivers for COVID-19

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services yesterday released a substantial number of new waivers related to COVID-19. The waivers apply nationwide and are retroactive to March 1, 2020. Among other areas, the waivers include: Allowing hospitals to establish additional treatment locations; Expanding access to telehealth; Removing self-referral barriers to responding to COVID-19; Allowing for additional workforce capacity; and Eliminating certain administrative requirements. Download the AHA Advisory for a detailed summary and key takeaways from the new waivers. In a statement, AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said, “CMS’s hospitals without walls approach and emergency declaration is a critical lifeline in the fight against COVID-19. These tools will help ensure hospitals and health systems can provide the right treatment for patients in the right location … We are very appreciative that CMS took quick and effective action, which provides much-needed relief for hospitals during this unprecedented time, including in rural areas served by critical access hospitals. We will continue to work on additional waiver suggestions to address additional areas that will equip us to have the flexibility to take timely and decisive action in serving our patients and communities.”