Senator Collins Chairs Hearing on Overcoming Challenges Facing Home Health Care with Innovative Solutions

The need for home-based aides is projected to grow by 47 percent over the next 10 years

Senator Collins has championed home health care and has introduced three bills to support providers

 

Click HERE for a photo of Senator Collins and Leigh Ann Howard, Director of Home Health and Specialty Programs at Northern Light Home Care & Hospice

 

Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening statement

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ opening statement.  Click HERE to download high-resolution video.

Click HERE to watch Ms. Howard’s testimony.  Click HERE to download high-resolution video.

 

Washington, D.C.—At a Senate Aging Committee hearing this morning on home health care, Leigh Ann Howard, the Director of Home Health and Specialty Programs at Northern Light Home Care & Hospice, shared one of her greatest triumphs: 

 

“One of our biggest successes is a patient who had over 20 ER visits and hospitalizations within six months,” Ms. Howard explained.  “Once admitted to home care and telemonitoring, we worked with the physician to design a medication-based protocol that would meet her unique needs.  Her ER visits and hospitalizations were significantly decreased, and she has been able to stay at home for more than five years.”

 

Thanks to Northern Light and other home care programs, similar success stories are playing out across Maine.  In the last year alone, Northern Light Home Care and Hospice clinicians drove over three million miles to provide care, making close to 200,000 visits.  This form of care is critical to allowing older adults and people with disabilities to avoid costly hospital and nursing home stays and to live independently in their own homes.  It is also particularly challenging to deliver in a large, rural state with an aging population like Maine.

 

In an effort to focus on opportunities for new and innovative uses of home health and identify obstacles such as provider reimbursements, regulatory restrictions, and workforce shortages, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) chaired today’s Aging Committee hearing titled, “There’s No Place Like Home: Home Health Care in Rural America.” 

 

“I saw first-hand the importance of home care in my very first home visit during my second year of Senate service.  An older couple in their eighties receiving home care were able to remain together in the comfort, security, and privacy of their own home,” said Senator Collins.  “Highly skilled and caring visiting nurses make such a difference in the lives of patients and families, like this couple.  In Maine, home health workers often go to extraordinary lengths for their rural patients, sometimes relying on lobster boats and mail planes to reach them.”

 

Ms. Howard explained how the use of remote patient monitoring has helped them surmount the difficulty of clients being spread out over a large geographic area.  A device in the patient’s home tracks his or her vitals and sends the readings to nurses for analysis. The hospitalization rate for these patients is between two and four percent, which is far lower than the national hospital readmission rate of nearly 25 percent each month.

 

“This program allows home care nurses to make home visits based on a demonstrated need as opposed to an anticipated need, which is very important given the shortage of nurses,” said Ms. Howard.  “Currently we are tele-monitoring over 300 patients statewide every day.”

 

Senator Collins has championed three bills that would tackle some of the top issues facing home health care agencies:

 

  • The first, the Home Health Payment Innovation Act, would assist agencies struggling to absorb years of reimbursement cuts by preventing inequitable and unwarranted payment rate reductions and expanding access to care in a cost-effective manner. 

 

  • The second bill, the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, would allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists to order home health care services. This would be particularly helpful in rural and underserved areas of our nation.

 

  • The third bill, the Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act, would help grow and train the next generation of geriatric health providers to meet the needs of older adults. This bill has been incorporated into the Title VII Health Care Workforce Reauthorization Act, which was passed by the Health Committee in December.

 

Senator Collins has also pushed for a targeted rural add-on payment to compensate home health agencies that are operating in vast rural areas, such as northern Maine, where they have to drive long distances between patients.

 

In January 2018, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, a bipartisan bill authored by Senator Collins, was signed into law.  This legislation requires a coordinated strategic plan to leverage resources, promote best practices, and expand services and training available to caregivers.  In recognition of her outstanding advocacy and long-time leadership for home care and hospice, Senator Collins received the Home Care and Hospice Alliance of Maine’s Ruby Slipper Award in 2017.

 

Other witnesses at today’s hearing included:

 

  • William Dombi, President of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (Washington, DC).

 

  • Warren Hebert, DNP, RN, CAE, FAAN, Assistant Professor, Loyola University and CEO,  Home Health Care Association of Louisiana (Lafayette, Louisiana).

 

  • Francis Adams, Home Care Worker (Washington, Pennsylvania).

 

Click HERE to read their testimonies.