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Senator Gillibrand, Colleagues Press HHS for Home Care Supports

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today issued a press release and letter to federal health officials seeking vital supports for home and community-based providers in the pandemic. Among them: priority access to personal protective equipment (PPE); telehealth reimbursement for home health agencies; and funding support for Medicaid home and community-based providers and workers.

HCA and HCA member the Visiting Nurse Service of New York have been working closely with Senator Gillibrand’s office on this appeal.

“HCA applauds and appreciates Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to champion critical COVID-19 funding, personal protective equipment supply access, and broader in-home telehealth permissions best suited to patient-specific clinical needs in home care, especially during the pandemic,” said HCA President Al Cardillo in today’s press release issued by the Senator’s office. “These are urgent necessities for achieving continuous health monitoring of vulnerable patients at home while ensuring vital worker and patient safety in the home care setting. Senator Gillibrand’s efforts are of extraordinary importance to our services.”

“Since the pandemic began in March, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) has provided home health care to over 2,600 COVID+ patients,” said VNSNY President and CEO Marki Flannery. “But to keep our frontline staff safe and our homebound patients healthy, we must have appropriate policies and financial support. That means reimbursing home health providers for vital services delivered through telehealth, sufficient Medicare and Medicaid funding for care in the home, and priority access to personal protective equipment.”

The Senate letter is addressed to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. It is cosigned by Senators Bob Casey (PA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Tina Smith (MN), and Richard Blumenthal (CT).

“Across states, home care and hospice personnel have struggled to obtain and maintain adequate supplies of PPE,” the Senators write. “In some jurisdictions, home care and hospice were not even recognized by emergency management and public health authorities as essential care settings where PPE was vital for care access, health safety and protection.”

They add: “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and in the face of future emergencies, HHS and CMS must establish home care and hospice essential personnel status for PPE and other prioritization in emergency response, and direct state and local public health jurisdictions to follow.”

HCA greatly appreciates the vocal support of Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues on these areas of core need for home care and hospice in the pandemic. Federal action is paramount, and HCA has been working vigorously with partners at the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) for relief in a next coronavirus aid package.