Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Representing the 7th District of Alabama

Sewell Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Expand Access to Home Health Care

May 8, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) today introduced the Home Health Payment Innovation Act of 2019 (H.R. 2573), legislation that will preserve Medicare recipients access to home health care services and provide a pathway for innovating approaches to using these services.

“I know firsthand the benefits of home health care. When my dad was left wheelchair-bound after a series of strokes, my mom needed help caring for him. He was lucky enough to receive care from highly-skilled and caring nurses and other health care professionals right where he wanted to be – at home,” said Rep. Sewell. “Home health providers were not only a lifeline for my dad, their services are critical for seniors, disabled individuals and those with limited mobility in my district. The Home Health Payment Innovation Act preserves access to existing home health services under the Medicare program while also providing a pathway to expand use of home health care without increasing Medicare program spending.”

“Home health is a critical part of the equation of how we can best provide care to those who need it, particularly seniors in rural areas,” said Rep. Ralph Abraham, M.D. “This bill will ensure that there are no interruptions in the delivery of home health so that seniors can access the care they prefer. I look forward to working with Congresswoman Sewell and other members of this bipartisan coalition to pass this bill for the good of our seniors.”

“Preserving access to quality home health care is critical for our growing senior population in Florida,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan. “This bill would help ensure that seniors avoid re-hospitalization and receive the care they need in their own home.”

“ElevatingHOME and VNAA members applaud Representatives Sewell, Kuster, Buchanan, Abraham and the other original sponsors for introducing bipartisan legislation to ensure seniors continue to have access to high-quality home care services as the Medicare program transitions to a new payment model,” said Danielle Pierotti, RN, PhD, CENP, and Vice President of Quality and Research at ElevatingHOME and VNAA. “In addition, we strongly support testing new models to allow more flexibility in the delivery of home care services for Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage and other care models. We look forward to working with the bill authors to enact this critical legislation this year.”

“We fully support this Medicare legislation to protect beneficiary access to home health services. We look forward to working with this bipartisan group of bill sponsors – and their bipartisan colleagues in the Senate – to advance this important legislation,” said Keith Myers, Chairman of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare. “This bill will prevent disruptions in patient care by ensuring that home health payments to providers of care are not cut by $1 billion in 2020. This legislation also protects the home health program at a time when we are moving to a new payment system that will better align payment with a patient’s true health needs and conditions.”

“This legislation is a crucial check on Medicare’s regulatory actions that threaten access to home health. CMS’s arbitrary reimbursement cuts in the new 2020 payment model will create barriers to the full scope of the Medicare benefit. CMS should not be able to rely on speculation and assumptions as to how a home health agency might act in establishing a new payment system. It sets a dangerous precedent that only puts care needlessly in jeopardy,” said NAHC President William A. Dombi, Esq. “This legislation would provide stability in transitioning to the PDGM model and ensure any reimbursement adjustments are made only in response to actual changes in provider billings. Further, the legislation allows for waivers to the restrictive homebound requirement in certain circumstances, which will benefit Medicare participants. We thank the bill sponsors for their leadership on this issue and for working to protect the Medicare Home Health benefit.”

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services have proposed payment cuts to home health care services. Those proposed cuts, scheduled for implementation on January 1, 2020, could limit access to home health services and would result in an estimated loss of $950 million for home health providers that care for more than 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries across the country.

Specifically, the legislation would prevent unwarranted payment rate cuts by basing any behavioral adjustment on actual evidence and limit the risk of disruption in care by providing a phase-in for any necessary rate increases or decreases.

In addition to Sewell, the bill was introduced by Reps. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), Garret Graves (R-LA), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), John Larson (D-CT), Kenny Marchant (R-TX), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX).

The Senate companion was introduced earlier this year by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Doug Jones (D-AL).

The Home Health Payment Innovation Act of 2019 is available here.