U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Greg Walden (R-OR), along with 26 co-sponsors, introduced bipartisan legislation yesterday to ensure that seniors and disabled citizens have timely access to home health services under Medicare.
The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, H.R. 2267 will allow physician assistants (PA), nurse practitioners (NP), clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives to order home health services for Medicare beneficiaries. Schwartz introduced similar legislation in the last two Congresses.
Currently, Medicare recognizes NP's and PA's as authorized providers who are able to order nursing home care for Medicare beneficiaries. However, they are not able to order less costly and less intrusive home care services. Even in states that have explicitly expanded their laws to allow other medical providers to order home care, Medicare will still not certify payment for these services until a physician signs the order.
Those seniors and disabled citizens who see these medical professionals as their primary care providers often need an extra office visit with an unknown physician in order to get the care they need. This legislation will relieve that burden for our most vulnerable citizens.
"We have a responsibility to provide America's seniors with high quality health care, and a key part of that is ensuring they have timely access to home health care services," Schwartz said. "These valued health care professionals play a central role in the delivery of primary care, particularly in medically underserved areas, and are essential to the coordination of team-based care."
"This bill will reduce unnecessary and duplicative burdens on providers and seniors in need of home health services," Walden said. "Particularly in rural areas like central, southern, and eastern Oregon where physicians are scarce, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse-midwives are essential components of the health care delivery system. Not only are they serving on the front lines of primary care, but also in many areas they are the only option readily available."
"This bill will eliminate barriers that currently exist to home health care services for the patients that urgently need them," said Susan Schrand, MSN, CRNP and executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners. "Nurse practitioners care for thousands of patients across Pennsylvania and the nation each day, and are highly qualified to make this determination."
"This legislation is long overdue and welcome news for thousands of nurses who have had expanded roles in the care of Medicare patients, but who have had their hands tied by CMS in their ability to certify home health services for patients," said Val J. Halamandaris, president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. "This legislation will ensure that important care to these Medicare beneficiaries is not interrupted."
This bill is supported by: American Association of Retired Persons, National Association for Home Care and Hospice, American Nurses Association, American College of Nurse Midwives, American College of Nurse Practitioners, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, American Academy of Nurse Practitioner, American Academy of Physician Assistants, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties.