National home care groups to hammer out PPS strategy

By MATTHEW HAY

HHBR Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON – The five national home care associations will meet Tuesday along with the American Hospital Association (AHA; Washington) and the American Health Care Association (AHCA; Washington) to coordinate a strategy for bringing about hoped-for changes in the Health Care Financing Administration’s (HCFA; Baltimore) proposed rule for the home health prospective payment system (PPS).

"There have been some minor discussions with HCFA about the PPS regulation and we have a summit meeting next week of the national associations to talk about the PPS regulations and set up a strategy so we can have a meeting with HCFA," said the National Association for Home Care’s (NAHC; Washington) Bill Dombi.

"We want to get together on coordinating our message," explained American Federation of Homecare Providers (AFHCP) Executive Director Anne Howard. "It is essential that we all agree on what we are going to be asking for, how we are going to ask for it, and how we are going to coordinate our activities both with HCFA and with Congress, if necessary."

Howard said "numerous issues" have surfaced since the comment period officially ended Dec. 27. "I have a bunch of new issues and I am sure the other associations do too," she added. "We will put those additional issues on the table and focus on items that we all agree on that can be accomplished if we work in a unified fashion."

Howard also expressed concern that Congress’ postponement of the additional 15% cut in home health reimbursement will not translate into a 15% increase in reimbursement.

"The issue is how that will affect the rates that were published," she said. "I am not expecting a 15% increase in those rates.

"We don’t anticipate that removal of the 15% reduction is going to mean the budget neutrality factor increases 15% and the rates go up 15%," she explained. "We anticipate it is going to be somewhat less than that."

Home Care Association of America (HCAA: Jacksonville, FL) Director of Government Affairs Scott Lara expressed hope that the AHA would be able to throw its considerable clout and grassroots capabilities behind any unified position.

But he added that if HCFA does not back off the proposed 50/50 payment split, HCAA is ready to go to Congress to push for at least a 75% up-front payment. "These agencies cannot afford to float the government," he argued. "All the costs we are paying are up-front costs such as nurses and mileage, yet we only get half the payment up-front."