In The News

Register Now for the 2023 Fall Virtual Conference

HHAC is excited to announce our second annual Fall Virtual Conference! 

Beginning October 9, 2023, more than 25 sessions are planned for on-demand viewing of critical topics presented by national and local experts. With plenty of content for Administrators, QA and field staff (Nursing, PT, OT, ST, SW, Aides, Chaplains, and Volunteer Coordinators), it’s a perfect way to be prepared for the new year and to say thank you to your team by providing the continuing education that they need. The virtual conference is available through 
January 31, 2024 to access. 

Individual and Full Agency Registrations Available! 

Click here for more information and to register! 


Who Should Get a COVID Vaccine This Year?

Reuters | By Michael Erman

(Reuters) - The U.S. drug regulator authorized updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech as well as from Moderna on Monday as the country prepares to start an autumn vaccination campaign as soon as this week. A third vaccine from Novavax remains under review.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the shots for those aged 12 and above, and authorized them for emergency use in children aged 6 months through 11 years. Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are set to meet on Tuesday to discuss recommendations on who should get the vaccines this year. CDC Director Mandy Cohen said last month she expects the shots to be given annually, but not all doctors agree everyone needs them each year.

How is this year's vaccine different from last year?

Pfizer with BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax all have created new versions of their COVID-19 vaccines. Unlike last year's booster shot that included the original strain of the virus and the then-dominant Omicron variant, this year's shot targets only XBB.1.5, the predominant variant through most of 2023.

The companies have said their retooled vaccines have been shown in early testing to work against newer Omicron subvariants now circulating, including the highly mutated BA.2.86.

Should seniors, the immunocompromised and pregnant people get the shot this year?

There is broad consensus among doctors that these groups should receive at least an annual COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the virus because of their elevated risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death. For instance, the British government's vaccine committee said only adults 65 and older and some of these other categories will be offered the shot as they are the most likely to benefit…

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For Home Health Providers, Finding The Right Revenue Mix Is Increasingly A ‘Balancing Act’

Home Health Care News | By Andrew Donlan
Consolidation in the home health market has been forecasted for years.
While the amount of home health agencies has declined over the last couple of years, larger consolidation has yet to hit the industry.
But the fragmented and growing home health space could finally begin to experience it in the near-term future, likely due to declining traditional Medicare payment rates and a growing Medicare Advantage (MA) population.
Those factors are troublesome for almost all home health providers, but they also offer M&A opportunity.
“I think the the rate environment that we’re experiencing, whether it’s through Medicare or Medicare Advantage, is going to put some pressure on small players,” VitalCaring CEO April Anthony said on a panel at Home Health Care News’ FUTURE conference. “I think if you don’t have some of those Medicare Advantage relationships, at a point, that becomes a limiting factor to your ability to grow. I anticipate a fair amount of consolidation, in spite of the fact that this might not be the highest multiple era that we’ve experienced in our last few years.” …
The Balancing Act
When it comes to poor payment rates, Anthony chose to focus on MA plans’ rates for home health services, as opposed to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) fee-for-service payments.
“It’s frustrating to see where Medicare is going with their rates, and what they’re trying to do with clawbacks,” Anthony said. “But, if one of our managed care partners came to us with those [traditional Medicare] rates, we would be jumping for joy. We’d be saying, ‘This is the greatest contract we could possibly hope for.’”
Healing Hands Healthcare CEO Summer Napier – while recognizing that MA’s presence is growing quickly – warned other home health providers in the room about getting “into network” with an MA plan.

Being within a network can be beneficial for some providers from a referral perspective, but the risk-reward needs to be calculated on an individual basis.
“You can be so eager to get into network or go after a contract that it ends up worse for you than you were without it,” Napier said on the panel. “I think some of the smaller organizations here want to be like the bigger organizations. And so you go after a contract, and then you get into the network. And then, you’re making a third of what you were making being out of network.”…

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HHS Announces Stronger Protections for Those with Disabilities

Home Care Insider

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a proposed rule that would update, clarify, and strengthen the statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance or are conducted by a Federal agency.

The proposed rule provides greater protections for people with disabilities in federally funded health and human services programs and helps ensure that people with disabilities are not subjected to discrimination in any program or activity receiving funding from HHS simply because they have a disability.

Specifically, the proposed rule:

  • Ensures that medical treatment decisions are not based on biases or stereotypes about individuals with disabilities, judgments that an individual will be a burden on others or beliefs that the life of an individual with a disability has less value than the life of a person without a disability;
  • Clarifies obligations for web, mobile, and kiosk accessibility;
  • Establishes enforceable standards for accessible medical equipment;
  • Clarifies requirements in HHS-funded child welfare programs and activities;
  • Prohibits the use of value assessment methods that place a lower value on life-extension for individuals with disabilities when that method is used to limit access or to deny aids, benefits, and services; and
  • Clarifies obligations to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities.

Report: 900,000 More Home Care Workers Needed By 2031

Home Health Care News
Over the course of the next decade, the direct care workforce is expected to see enormous growth.
Despite projections, low wages and other challenges continue to plague the workforce, further compounding the recruitment and retention issues seen across the home-based care space.
That’s the key takeaway from a recent report from PHI, a New York-based direct care workers advocacy organization that conducts research and analysis.
“Home care workers continue to be an essential and growing U.S. workforce,” Robert Espinoza, executive vice president of policy at PHI, told Home Health Care News. “The research shows that median wages for direct care workers are inadequate. Many of them live in – or are near – poverty, and they rely on public assistance just to survive.”
Though the direct care workforce had seen incremental wage growth due to state and federal investments in Medicaid funding, the scaling back of these supports has meant a major slowdown in wage growth, according to the report.
Specifically, wages for direct care workers went up by $0.68 per hour in 2020, but in 2021, the median hourly wage for direct care workers increased by only $0.07 per hour. It increased by $0.02 per hour in 2022.
Overall, the median annual income for these workers is $23,688. Home care workers, in particular, earn a median annual income of $20,599.
As a result, 42% of home care workers live below the poverty line, and 55% are utilizing public assistance, such as Medicaid, food assistance or cash assistance, according to the report.
In addition to the low wages, PHI also found that 16% of home care workers work over 40 hours per week.
While these challenges persist, the home care workforce is estimated to add more than 900,000 new positions from 2021 to 2031 — outpacing any other occupation in the country.
Plus, from 2021 to 2031, the home care industry will have almost 5.5 million total positions open. Roughly 2 million of these job openings are due to workers leaving and getting into other professions, and more than 2 million will leave the labor force entirely.
“In several studies, home care workers often cite inadequate compensation as one of the primary reasons they are leaving these roles,” Espinoza said. “You can see it because, oftentimes, they’re leaving for occupations that pay modestly higher wages, like fast food, like retail, etcetera. They’re leaving for McDonald’s and Macy’s, so wages are a very important piece of it.”
Espinoza noted that things like health care coverage, child care support, adequate training and advancement opportunities are also important factors in retaining and recruiting home care workers.
Home care comes in second for among all U.S. occupations for total job openings, according to the report.
Ultimately, Espinoza urged home care employers to think about compensation, but also to build a strong culture for workers.
“[They] should be thinking about how to create a culture within agencies that supports workers, centers their needs and their aspirations, and really integrates their values into all aspects of the organization,” he said.

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