News Briefs

Home health policy trends for 2005 evaluated

The American Association for Homecare in Alexandria, VA, has identified eight of the key health care policy trends that will affect home health agencies and home health consumers.

The trends are:

1. Greater consumer choice for Medicare beneficiaries, including Medicare Advantage plans and Medical Savings Accounts with high-deductible catastrophic coverage.

2. The use of the federal tax code rather than creation of a new entitlement to address long-term care costs, including deductions for the long-term care services for the taxpayer or dependents and purchase of long-term care insurance.

3. Greater reliance on competition and private sector solutions in the health care arena, e.g., Medicare Advantage plans and the new prescription drug benefit.

4. Acceleration of the consumer-directed care movement in both Medicare and Medicaid.

5. Movement away from utilization controls as in the old HMOs, and toward rewards for better outcomes in cost savings, quality, and consumer satisfaction (e.g., the new Chronic Care Improvement Program).

6. Expansion of pay for performance, including for home health, based on program savings, clinical effectiveness, and patient satisfaction.

7. Greater public reporting of outcome measures, for more services as well as more measures reported for providers whose scores are currently published on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ web page.

8. Rewards for providers who implement disease management, practice evidence-based medicine, and use telehealth and other technological advances.

CMS corrections to wage index published

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued a number of technical corrections to the hospital wage index table that was included in the final home health Prospective Payment System (PPS) notice, which was published in the Oct. 22, 2004, Federal Register. The new PPS rates are effective Jan. 1, 2005. To see the corrected information in the Nov. 30, 2004, Federal Register, go to this web link: