NAHC's annual March on Washington got underway on Sunday with a general session that highlighted the many issues that the home care and hospice community face, and why this year is so critical for the industry overall to be in Washington as advocates. With SGR negotiations getting underway in Congress, proposals to add copayments to home care and hospice benefits on the table in some proposals, ongoing concern over the face-to-face and companionship rules, CMS’ misguided rebasing Final Rule and ongoing confusion over the ACA employer mandate, the opening session’s panel of experts from NAHC provided updates to attendees on all of these issues, as well as on the political, legislative and regulatory climate in Washington. DC.
The General Session’s panel included many of NAHC’s own legislative, legal and policy experts - NAHC President Val J. Halamandaris; NAHC Vice President for Law Bill Dombi; NAHC Vice President for Hospice Policy and Programs Theresa Forster; NAHC Vice President for Government Affairs Jeff Kincheloe; NAHC Vice President for Technology Policy Richard Brennan; NAHC Vice President for Regulatory Affairs Mary Carr; Colin Roskey, NAHC Counsel and Mary Langowski, NAHC Counsel – who provided their insight, analysis and percpective on a range of issues.
While the panel helped to outline in clear terms what is at stake for the home care and hospice community - and why it is so important for lawmakers to hear from their constituents who work in the home care and hospice fields – there were some areas of good news. “We could be getting good news from the CBO on our rebasing rule soon,” said NAHC Vice President for Law Bill Dombi. “Just to have the CBO score it is an accomplishment.”
Another area where there were positive developments were in health IT for home care and hospice providers. “There is finally alignment between Congress and the Adminsitration when it comes to healthcare spending and how health IT can play a role in containing those costs,” said NAHC Vice President for Technology Policy Richard Brennan. “There is a bright future ahead for home care and hospice telehealth, but we need support from Congress.”
Panelists also went into detail about a range of Medicaid, Medicare and hospice issues, reminding attendees of some of the key messages to share with lawmakers. “Remind lawmakers that CMS is predicting that close to 50 percent of home health agencies will be under water because of the rebasing rule,” said Mary Langowski. “Tell the people you meet with what that means for their district and humanize what it is you do.”
In offering a summary of the home health and hospice community’s successes in the past year and challenges ahead, NAHC President Val J. Halamandaris offered, “we have been pretty successful recently playing strong defense, but it’s time for us to go on the offense, and that’s what we’re going to do…The biggest threat facing us now is that we don’t work together to overcome these challenges.”
The opening general session was also being “live tweeted.” Attendees are encouraged to join the conversation via social media by using the #MoW2014 hash-tag throughout this year’s March on Washington.