Caregiver wearing stethoscope takes pulse of home health patient

Leaders of two key home care associations voiced their excitement Thursday regarding the growing legislative and regulatory momentum in the direction of home care. But they also addressed the acute workforce problem and rallied their members to work together to solve it.

William Dombi headhot
William Dombi

“It’s pretty clear that 2021 is the year of healthcare at home,” said William Dombi, president of the National Association for Health Care & Hospice (NAHC), which sponsored Thursday’s webinar, along with the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA) and the law firm Polsinelli. The theme of the webinar was the latest developments in home care.

Dombi outlined a slew of legislative and regulatory signs that point toward more government support of home care. These include pending legislation such as the HCBS Access Act of 2021 and a Choose Home bill. On the regulatory front, the growth of the Acute Hospital Care At Home program and expected expansion of the Home Health Value-Based Purchasing Model are signals that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is seeing the potential and value of providing care in the home, he said.

“Hospital level of care at home has sent an incredible message throughout the healthcare world that pretty much everything could be done in the home setting with the right resources applied in the right way,” he said.

A bipartisan issue

Without a doubt, one of the most obvious signals of the shift to home care so far is President Biden’s $400 billion infrastructure package. While it is encountering partisan roadblocks, the “aspect of a care infrastructure is now in the lexicon in Washington and the goals focused on the home care setting continue to be goals shared by both parties,” he said.

Vicki Hoak, executive director of HCAOA, said that it is important to take a moment to rejoice over Biden’s historic plan.

“We need to celebrate that I don’t think ever in our wildest imagination did we ever think that a sitting U.S. president would have home care as the centerpiece of one of first his major initiatives,” Hoak said.

‘More acute’ workforce problem

It’s impossible to talk about home care without talking about the workforce issue, Hoak said. Because of the need for solutions, NAHC and HCAOA are going to partner on the issue, she and Dombi stated.

“We’ve all talked about the workforce issue years ago,” Hoak said. “But this time it’s different. This time it’s more acute.”

The pandemic created a surge of interest in home care, she noted. As a result, agencies are struggling to meet demand.

“Now though it’s really important that our industry starts talking about it and our industry starts putting forth some solutions,” she said.

While wages are important, other factors are as well, such as immigration reform, she pointed out.

“We are looking at immigration legislation, folks, because we think we’re going to have to go that route as well,” she said.