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Proposed Federal Changes Could Cost Home Health Companies Nearly $1 Billion in 2019

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Shares of Louisville-based Kindred stock fell sharply in the last week of August. A proposed federal rule may change the way home health companies like Kindred are paid.

Right now, the federal government reimburses companies that provide home health care based on the number of visits to a patient.

Under the federal proposal, payments would be made based on what condition or illness the patient has and how much help a patient needs to relearn a skill, like bathing.

 

If the rule is finalized, the industry is expected to lose $950 million in payments from Medicare in 2019. The change would go into effect in late 2018. Joy Cameron of the Visiting Nurses Association of America said that date is too soon.

 

“It’s untested and we’d like to see them consider the best way to apply a model like this to see how it actually works versus looking at something on a piece of paper,” she said.

 

As far as the federal government is concerned, the steps are justified because of the large profits home health companies — like Kindred — are making. But Cameron said the government does not take into account the overhead costs of home health agencies. For example, paying for electronic health systems and the cost of driving to patients can be higher in rural areas.

 

Officials with Kindred did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter. Most recently, she was a reporter for Kaiser Health News. During her career, Gillespie has covered all things health — from Medicaid and Medicare payment policy and rural hospital closures to science funding and the dietary supplement market.
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