Senators Collins And Schumer Introduce Legislation To Make Home Health Care More Accessible To Medicare Patients

WASHINGTON, DC-- As leading proponents of home health care and ensuring that Medicare patients have access to this crucial health care option, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) have authored the “Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act.” The bill will improve the access Medicare beneficiaries have to home health care by allowing physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives to order home health services, all of which are playing increasingly important roles in the delivery of health care, particularly in rural and underserved areas of our nation.

Under current law, only physicians are allowed to certify or initiate home health care for Medicare patients, even though they may not be as familiar with the with the patient’s case as the non-physician provider. In some cases, the certifying physician may not even have a relationship with the patient and must rely on the recommendation of the nurse practitioner, physician assistant, clinical nurse specialist or certified nurse midwife to order the medically necessary home health care. In too many cases, these requirements create obstacles, delays and unnecessary paperwork to the process before home health care can be provided.

The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act removes the needless delays in getting Medicare patients the home health care they need simply because a physician is not available to sign the form required by law.

Senator Collins said, “I have learned of far too many cases of seniors who experienced unnecessary delays in accessing home health care simply because of the burdensome requirement that only physicians can order such services. Home health care is a crucial component to quality health care and should be more accessible to Medicare patients. It is common sense that other medical professionals – who in many cases are the patient’s primary care provider -- should be able to order these services.”

Senator Schumer said, “Our seniors should not have to wait unnecessarily or experience unreasonable delays in their health care because a doctor is unavailable to sign the form that will approve them for home health services. Our top-notch nurse practitioners, midwives and specialists, who often develop the relationships with these patients, should also be able to provide the final sign-off needed to bring some of our most vulnerable community members the quality care they need in the comfort of their own home. This bill will help us remove red tape and streamline the process so we can bring these seniors quality home health care as soon as possible.”

The Collins-Schumer legislation is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including the AARP, the National Council on Aging, the American Geriatrics Society, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, the American Nurses Association, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the American College of Nurse Midwives, and the Visiting Nurse Associations of America.