By Kristin Rowan, Editor

Last month, we published an article in partnership with Bob Roth of Cypress HomeCare Solutions in Scottsdale, AZ about paying for long-term care at home. Since then, I have come across some interesting information as we continue to tackle the issue of paying for care that is not reimbursed by the current Medicare/Medicaid system.

Medicare and Medicare Advantage have set pay rates for home health and hospice care. Home Health Value-Based Purchasing (HHVBP), implemented by CMS, was designed to incentivize agencies by paying more for quality care rather than a higher number of services provided. This is similar to giving advances and pay raises based on performance rather than longevity in a job, which I’m all for. However, the HHVBP overlooked palliative care altogether and neither the fee-for-service model nor the HHVBP model includes supportive (read private duty) care at home. Since these services are not reimbursed, there is no incentive to provide them nor way to get paid for them if the patient cannot pay out-of-pocket.

This causes two problems:

1. Home Health and Hospice Agencies are reluctant to provide unreimbursed care, with good reason, so the overall patient experience is less than ideal, rehospitalization rates increase, star-ratings and scores decrease, bonuses go away, and the agencies make less money than before.

2. Patients can’t get the care they need and want. Palliative care patients may receive Hospice care too early, or they may not receive care at all because they fall between home health and hospice. Patients who need supportive care at home can’t afford it so they either go without, causing increased complications or they rely on friends and family members who burn out under the stress of being a full-time caregiver.

Innovative care strategies can overcome the obstacles faced by agencies and patients alike. There may not yet be a perfect solution, but there are some innovative ideas out there and something has to disrupt the current pay model.

Palliative Care Partners

Medicare Advantage organizations and primary physician groups receive a “cost of care” analysis for the duration of the patient care. The organization takes on the risk of that patient costing more than what the MA plan will pay, but can make more money if patient care costs less than anticipated. Palliative care at home costs less. David Causby, President and CEO of Gentiva, a Hospice organization that operates in 35 states across the U.S. and has an average daily census of 26,000, has implemented a plan of care in cooperation with these organizations in what he calls Advanced Illness Management (AIM) Model for Risk-Based Partnerships. Designed for palliative care, Gentiva creates a plan of care that includes visit frequency and care needs and employs nurse practitioners, care managers, after hours RNs and social workers. The hospital pays Gentiva on a PMPM model with shared savings. The hospital still gets paid the full amount from MA but uses fewer resources, has lower costs, and sees reduced rehospitalizations, saving more than what they pay out. According to Gentiva, this partnership “provides value to contracted organizations by decreasing the overall end-of-life spend on this high-risk patient population.”

Supportive Care at Home Innovations

Supportive Care at Home (Private Duty Home Care, Private Pay, Non-medical home care) is not covered by Medicare, Medicare Advantage, or most health insurance plans. Limited Medicaid grants, VA plans, and long-term health insurance pay for some supportive care at home. Without one of these plans, patients and family members pay out-of-pocket for supportive care at home, averaging $22-$27 per hour with a 4-hour minimum. In some states it can cost up to $50 per hour. At $80 per day, that’s around $20,000 per year.

One software company we recently spoke with is upending the home care model with fee-for-service model that charges by the minute, rather than by the hour, making care more affordable for more people. You can see our product review of Caring on Demand here. By reducing the cost for customers and reducing the time for caregivers, agencies can onboard more customers without hiring more caregivers. The system is being used in facilities where these services are not provided, which allows a caregiver to visit several people in one stop. The agency and the caregiver can see the same income in the same time, spread out across multiple private payers.

Combining Innovation for a Win-Win-Win

I heard about Caring on Demand and spoke with its founder in August of 2023. I spoke with one Home Care agency owner who recently started working with Caring on Demand. “Times have changed,” the agency owner said. With fewer caregivers joining the workforce, increased levels of burnout since 2020, and CMS changes that overlook palliative and non-medical care, maybe there’s another way…

  • Partnerships with organizations and physician groups that have Medicare, MA, and traditional health insurance patients, non-medical home care agencies, and palliative care providers.
  • Localized groups of patients in limited areas like retirement villages, planned communities, neighborhoods, or small towns.
  • Cost sharing and care coordination that includes in-home palliative care visits, supportive care, communication with primary care providers and specialists
  • Preventative intercessions to avoid unnecessary ER visits and hospitalizations
  • Shorter visits per caregiver with multiple visits to a community each day
  • Cost sharing among patients splitting a 4-hour minimum visit among 4-8 patients
  • Shared savings from reduced hospital stays, shorter durations of hospice care, and nursing visits that are supplemented by supportive care

Gentiva has experienced some success already in using shared savings as a payment model. Can costs be decreased even more by adding supportive home care to this plan? Is there enough shared savings for three payees instead of two? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do believe providers of supportive care and palliative care have been in the background, overlooked by CMS and MedPAC for long enough. If they aren’t going to recognize the positive impact and cost savings of home care and palliative care and include them in the reimbursement model, we may have to do it for them.

We’d love to hear your feedback on this and other innovative ways to combat the crisis of paying for care at home.

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Kristin Rowan

Kristin Rowan has been working at Healthcare at Home: The Rowan Report since 2008. She has a master’s degree in business administration and marketing and runs Girard Marketing Group, a multi-faceted boutique marketing firm specializing in event planning, sales, and marketing strategy. She has recently taken on the role of Editor of The Rowan Report and will add her voice to current Home Care topics as well as marketing tips for home care agencies. Connect with Kristin directly or

©2024 by The Rowan Report, Peoria, AZ. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Healthcare at Home: The Rowan One copy may be printed for personal use: further reproduction by permission only.