Monday, September 13, 2010

More Than 10,000 Messages Sent Through NAHC LAN

Your Help is Needed

With Congress Back in Session, More Opportunities for Advocacy to Come

After outstanding campaigns by the home care community to ramp up grassroots actions urging members of Congress to stop home health cuts (NAHC Report, 8/12/10), the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is proud to share our success stories.

More than 9,600 messages were generated through NAHC's Legislative Action Network (NAHC LAN) urging members of Congress to cosponsor the Home Health Care Access Protection Act (S. 3315; H.R. 5803), which would help stop the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from implementing the $1.5 billion in home health regulatory cuts over the next two years included in its proposed rule on 2011 home health payment rates (NAHC Report, 8/9/10). Advocates also attended town hall meetings, invited their members on home care visits, and submitted letters to the editor of their local newspapers.

As the congressional recess wraps-up -- with the Senate returning to business today and the House tomorrow -- home care advocates have unique opportunities to follow up on their recess advocacy efforts by continuing to urge their members of Congress (including by engaging their health care staffers) to cosponsor the Home Health Care Access Protection Act. Advocates also can help build support for other pending legislation important to the home health community such as the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, which would allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to sign home health plans of care (NAHC Report, 7/20/10). More than 2,000 messages have already been sent from the NAHC LAN supporting this bill.

Now that Congress is back from recess, senators and representatives will be making decisions about what bills to sponsor and will officially register their support. It is important to be persistent by asking that your senators and representative let you know if they will agree to sign on these bills. You may review the current list of cosponsors by clicking on the bill numbers (S. 3315; H.R. 5803), and then clicking on the link that says "Cosponsors."

This last stretch of Congressional activity before the November elections provides a short -- but dedicated and fervent -- four-week work schedule before members go out again to campaign. There has been some talk on Capitol Hill of Congress leaving even before October 8, so now is the time to step up advocacy and let members of Congress know the importance of these bills and the strength of home care advocacy.

'Lame Duck Session' Offers Further Opportunities for Advocacy

The tentative congressional schedule includes a plan to return after the November 2 elections for what is known as a "lame duck session" to deal with unfinished business, including an extension of the temporary fix to the Medicare physician payment formula and the exceptions process for the outpatient therapy cap. Without congressional action, the current physician payment fix will expire on November 30, resulting in a substantial reduction in physician payments. The exceptions process for the therapy cap expires on December 31.

When these Medicare issues are addressed, there should be opportunities to pursue home care priorities such as reforming the regulatory process for evaluating home health case-mix changes (provisions of the Home Health Care Access Protection Act) and the new face-to-face physician encounter requirements. Another change sought by home care advocates is allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to sign home health plans of care (the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act). Stay tuned to NAHC Report for coverage of what promises to be a very intense time on Capitol Hill and for more action alerts.