Peters Cosponsors Bill to Improve Home Health Care Assistance

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today announced he has cosponsored the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation that would expand access to home health care for Medicare beneficiaries. The legislation would amend Medicare guidelines to allow home health services to be certified by nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and physician’s assistants, all of which are playing increasingly critical roles in delivering health care, particularly in rural and underserved areas of our nation.

“Michigan seniors should be able to access the home health care services they need without having to endure needless delays,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense legislation will ensure that medical professionals directly involved in the day-to-day care of patients can better provide critical care, and I’m proud to join my colleagues in supporting this bipartisan legislation.”

Under current law, only physicians are allowed to certify 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 unnecessary 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.

“This legislation will help ensure that patients needing home health care can receive services in a timely manner. By allowing advanced practice registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and clinical nurse specialists to certify for home health, Medicare patients in Michigan and across the country will have further access to the high-quality care these clinicians provide. As a family nurse practitioner I am looking forward to having this available to support the health outcomes of our patients,” said Dr. Randolph Rasch, Dean and Professor, Michigan State University College of Nursing.

“This legislation would expand access to care and ensure that all of our healthcare providers in the field have the ability to review and order services, greatly benefiting the residents of rural northern Michigan served by Munson Home Health and the Munson healthcare system,” said Shari Wilson, President, Munson Home Health.

"With more and more people relying on nurse practitioners and other providers for in-home care, this legislation takes a critical step forward in expanding access to convenient and affordable health care services without jeopardizing quality,” said Melissa Romero, PhD, Assistant Graduate Program Coordinator for the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at Northern Michigan University and Vice President of the Northern Advanced Practice Nursing Network. “This bill will ensure residents, particularly in rural communities, are treated in a timely manner by health care professionals who have a deep understanding of their needs."

The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act is supported by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, LeadingAge, and AARP, among others.

In December, Peters introduced the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act with Senator Corey Gardner (R-CO) to expand access to health care in rural areas by paving the way for Medicare to cover additional telehealth services. The bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow eligible hospitals to test telehealth services through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and directs CMMI to review and independently evaluate telehealth models for cost, effectiveness, and improvement in quality of care without increasing the cost of delivery. If the telehealth model meets this criteria, then the model will be covered through the greater Medicare program.