by Kristin Rowan, Editor

Home Nurses are joining unions. The advent and unionization of Hospital-at-Home (H@H) is changing the care at home landscape. Large hospital systems across the country have engaged in H@H studies and launched H@H programs, providing hospital-level ambulatory services in their communities. As H@H continues to take a foothold in the healthcare landscape, what do those changes mean for care at home?

Hospital at Home Popularity

Most of the existing H@H programs are operating under a CMS waiver. A few of the H@H programs use a private pay model. The CMS waiver needs to be extended in order to continue the programs. As many H@H organizations are pushing for CMS to extend the waiver, they are looking to patients for advocacy.

A recent survey by Vivalink showed that 84% of U.S. individuals over the age of 40 are interested in H@H monitoring after a hospital visit so they can return home sooner. 77% of respondents said they would trust a recommendation that included at-home monitoring. Respondents who had been hospitalized three or more times in the past 12 months were more interested in H@H programs than those who had been hospitalized less.

Massachusetts Ambulatory Nurses Unionize

On May 20, 2024, 33 ambulatory nurses from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH) filed with the National Labor Board to join a union that is already active within the hospital, the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). The MNA currently represents 23,000 hospital workers from 85 healthcare facilities across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The hospital denied the request to join the union. The group of ambulatory nurses joined MVH through an acquisition of a physician’s group. Therefore, those nurses were not recognized under the existing collective bargaining agreement.

Hospital-at-Home Nurses at Mass General Unionize

The Hospital-at-Home nurses at Mass General Brigham (MGB) have unionized in the hopes of influencing the future of in-home acute care. They are also hoping this will encourage more people working in home healthcare to join unions. In the last seven months of 2023, almost half of all registered nurses working in home health care and non medical care at home left their jobs within a year. One registered nurse from MGB said she hopes HaH nurse unions become more common as HaH expands across the country.

The clinicians in the MGB home care segment are hoping to follow the H@H group into unionization soon. The home care segment, which includes home health, palliative, and other care at home services, are currently voting on whether to unionize.

Hospital-at-home nurses unionize at Mass Gen

Among the listed reasons for considering unionization are changes in expectations on productivity, and wages. Some of the more recent changes at MGB were rolled out across the company and did not take into consideration the territories and limitations that care at home clinicians have. More than 400 clinicians are in the care at home side of MGB and they have all received ballots to vote on unionization.

Home Health Unionization

hospital-at-home changing home health unions

The nature of care at home clinicians is disparate. Therefore, it is difficult to organize them into one cohesive group. Recently, though, more home health workers are looking to service workers and healthcare workers unions for better pay, better working conditions, and more buy-in on the day-to-day operations of the agency.

Opponents of unionization among home health clinicians argue that pay rates are largely set by CMS reimbursement rates. Employers may want to raise rates but are unable to do say because they accept Medicare and Medicaid. Home health unions could force employers to pay more than the set CMS rates.

CMS Response to Union Backlash

Otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, CMS responds to agencies worried about unionization with a mandate to pay their workers 80% of total Medicaid payments. Some agency owners say the proposed rule ignores the low reimbursement rates and further burdens agencies that are barely making a profit now. It is unlikely that CMS will see the unionization of home health clinicians as a reason to increase reimbursement rates. Experts advise agencies to start working on contract negotiations within the VBPM, to engage in risk-sharing and cost-benefit analyses with all parties within the VBPM. For example, Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is Medicare reimbursable, but not through home health use. However, a home health agency can share the benefits of RPM when it is billed through an approved provider for Medicare reimbursement. These strategies can lower overall care costs, increasing the share of reimbursement flowing to HHAs.

Maximize VBPM with Technology

Technologies available today include RPM, generative AI for data analytics, automated scheduling, and apps for secure communication, among others. Technology can lower overhead costs, allow you to eliminate some FTEs, and provide added value to providers during contract negotiations. If you don’t already have a robust tech-stack, look at some of our most recent product reviews, or contact The Rowan Report for more information about technology adoption consultations.

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Kristin Rowan, Editor
Kristin Rowan, Editor

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 Report. One copy may be printed for personal use: further reproduction by permission only.