Five trade groups continue work on unified proposal

By MATTHEW HAY
HHBR Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON – The five national home care associations held a strategy session via conference call last week to advance the unified industry proposal for legislative relief in the home care industry. One association executive who participated in that call said the coalition remains optimistic that at least some of the five principles included in the joint proposal earlier this year will be enacted in this Congress.

The executive suggested that a bill that combines elimination of the mandatory 15% across-the-board reduction combined with an outlier policy that restores access for medically complex patients probably stands the best chance.

The five groups supporting the proposal – the National Association for Home Care (NAHC; Washington), the American Federation of Home Care Providers (AFHP; Washington), Home Care Association of America (HCAA, Jacksonville, FL), Home Health Staffing and Services Association (HHSSA; Washington), and Visiting Nurses Association of America (VNAA; Boston) – have yet to find a congressional sponsor, but are now speaking with several congressional offices.

The coalition is counting on the fact that there is a growing recognition in Congress that the actual cuts imposed by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 on the home care industry far exceeded what was anticipated. Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC; Washington) Chairwoman Gail Wilensky recently acknowledged as much in an interview with The New York Times, and the home care industry is hoping those views are reflected in MedPAC’s report on the impact of the interim payment system due out next month.