Liza Berger headshot
Liza Berger

If you have a stake in a publicly traded home healthcare company, you might be feeling pretty confident right now. The picture from Wall Street appears to be nothing but rosy on the home health front.

As an example, on Thursday, Amedisys, one of the country’s largest home health companies, reported a 5% growth in home health volume for the fourth quarter. Chairman and CEO Paul Kusserow said that he projects a 9% increase in home care volume for 2021.

And the Pennant Group Inc., a new home health, hospice and senior living spin-off from the Ensign Group, this week reported that profits from operations in its home health and hospice segment rose a whopping 48% on higher revenues in 2020 over the prior year. And earnings ballooned 56% in the fourth quarter on strong revenues compared to the prior year.

There is no denying that home health has been the wind in the sails of companies that have experienced flagging revenues in their skilled nursing and senior living segments. Just consider VITAS Healthcare, which reported a significant increase of 9.2% in home-based admissions but double-digit drops in nursing home and assisted living admissions, respectively, for the fourth quarter.

The perpetual and nagging question is: Will this boom last? That might depend on where you are sitting. Rick Matros, CEO of Sabra Health Care REIT, which invests in skilled nursing and senior living properties, this week said he believes the  recent surge  in home health and decline in skilled nursing care is temporary.

The paradigm “isn’t going to change,” he said. “There are huge acuity differences between the settings. In home health, you’ve got, by definition, interim visits by nurses and therapists, and in skilled nursing facilities, it’s all 24/7; it’s very intense.” 

How the balance between home care versus skilled nursing volume shakes out is anyone’s guess. But with lawmakers, regulators and consumers pushing to see the bounds of home health’s potential, at this point, it seems, the sky’s the limit.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at liza.berger@mcknights.com and follow her @LizaBerger19.