Medicare-certified home health agencies and hospice programs will be subject to additional scrutiny with Thursday’s announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services of the release of ownership data to the public. HHS said that the move, which follows similar releases of information about nursing homes and hospitals last year, will benefit enforcement agencies as well as families and researchers.
“This action is in line with numerous White House initiatives around transparency and accountability. The federal government again shows its commitment to take meaningful steps to ensure America’s older adults and families can receive quality care, which includes owners and operators of our nation’s home health and hospice agencies. LeadingAge and our nonprofit, mission-driven home health and hospice agency members support this,” Katie Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, told McKnight’s.
Members of the public for the first time can review on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website detailed ownership information about the more than 11,000 home health agencies and 6,000 hospices that are certified to participate in the Medicare program.
“It’s plain and simple: families deserve transparency when making decisions about hospice and home health care for their loved ones,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement Thursday. “Shining a light on ownership data is good for families, good for researchers and good for enforcement agencies.”
The data provided include provider enrollment information such as organization name, type, practice location addresses, national provider identifier and CMS certification number. Additionally, the public has access to detailed information about each owner, such as whether the owner is an organization or an individual and whether the owner is a direct or indirect owner. The available information also will include data on mergers, acquisitions, consolidations and changes of ownership since 2016 for the home health agencies and hospices.
“Transitioning to hospice care is often an emotionally overwhelming time for many families,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said. “Making this data public increases transparency, giving families the information needed to help them identify the best care for their loved one. Providing information is a hallmark of this administration’s efforts to improve care because we understand that having good information allows people to make the best choices possible.”
CMS began making efforts toward transparency last year:
- In April 2022, CMS publicly released data on mergers, acquisitions, consolidations and changes of ownership from 2016-2022 for nursing homes and hospitals enrolled in Medicare.
- In September 2022, CMS released additional data publicly on the ownership of approximately 15,000 nursing homes certified as Medicare skilled nursing facilities, regardless of any change in ownership, including providing more detailed information about organizational owners of nursing homes.
- In December 2022, CMS released detailed information on the ownership of more than 7,000 hospitals certified to participate in the Medicare program.
A rule proposed in February is intended to make even more clear the ownership and management operations of skilled nursing facilities, using part of the Affordable Care Act to require nursing homes enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid — the majority of US nursing homes — to disclose individuals or entities that provide administrative services or clinical consulting services to the nursing homes.
“We agree with the administration that ownership and financing of home health and hospice agencies should be transparent to help ensure that owners or associated businesses do not profit at the cost of quality care,” Sloan said.