February 28, 2017

Sens. Cardin, Collins Introduce Legislation to Make Home Health Care More Accessible to Medicare Patients

WASHINGTON — As leading proponents of home health care and ensuring that Medicare patients have access to this crucial health care option, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced 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.

"Physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives play an important role in managing and delivering health care," said Senator Cardin. "This bipartisan legislation recognizes how critical these providers are to delivering home health services to Medicare beneficiaries and ensures seniors will have timely access to needed services."

“Home health care is a crucial component to quality health care and should be more accessible to Medicare patients,” said Senator Collins. “I have learned of far too many cases of seniors who experienced unnecessary delays in accessing home health care. To avoid these needless delays, it is common sense that other medical professionals who are familiar with a patient’s case should be able to order these services.”

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 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.

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

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