Advocacy Double-Down Needed in Next Federal Round of COVID-19 Funding, Supports 

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, intensive federal advocacy has been critical in achieving key home care and hospice aid to date. Home care and hospice needs to redouble those efforts now that a potential fourth federal aid package is designed and debated.

HCA thanks members for responding with grassroots advocacy on prior rounds of COVID-19 legislation, and we urge members to be ready for a next phase of activity.

To date, federal COVID-19 efforts led by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), HCA, and affiliate members have led to vital relief actions such as the long-sought federal policy change allowing non-physician practitioners to order home care, Medicare payment advancement, regulatory waivers and procedural flexibility to ease operational pressures, and more. 

However, alongside these gains, both Congress and the Administration have left home care with major voids that must be prioritized in the next aid package. Congressional COVID-19 relief actions have sent billions to non-home care sectors, and provided wide telehealth latitude for non-home care providers, while issuing comparatively little direct financial aid or needed telehealth latitude for home care.

HCA President Al Cardillo highlighted many of these issues in an op-ed published over the weekend for the Empire Report.

“Home telehealth can maximize a clinician’s reach and help providers commit more resources to patients with the greatest needs,” Cardillo wrote on one of the main pressure points. “This includes the many thousand home care recipients deemed by state emergency preparedness procedures as having care requirements so critical that they cannot have any deviation from their physician-ordered plan of care.”

“Our state’s Medicaid program is also allowing providers to bill for these services,” he added. “Not so for Medicare, where we need Congress to similarly respond on behalf of millions of beneficiaries nationally.”

Overall, the highly unsettled federal landscape presents significant challenges.  

Senate and House leaders have major differences in their views of COVID-19 relief targets, complicating a Congressional focus on requested home care and hospice areas.

Moreover, NAHC’s tightly drawn and coordinated four-point aid plan for this next COVID-19 package has recently seen its provisions selected out by different legislators, each seeking to sponsor a separate part of the package with their own take on the original language and intentions. (The NAHC plan, strongly endorsed by HCA and state associations nationwide, includes: a 15 percent increase in reimbursement funding, telehealth, priority status for personal protective equipment, and the ability to bill based on documented verbal orders.)

While Congressional support for this plan is welcome, the diffuse sponsorship across multiple Congressional offices must now be navigated into a cohesive advocacy strategy and message. That strategic effort is being taken up at tomorrow’s NAHC Advocacy Advisory Council meeting by NAHC, HCA and fellow leaders.

HCA will advise members of the actions planned stemming from tomorrow’s Council meeting for getting this home care aid plan into the upcoming COVID-19 aid package, including direct outreach to the New York Congressional Delegation.