HOME HEALTH: HCFA to Track Patient Care, Outcomes
Home health care workers must fill out extensive questionnaires on their clients' health progress and services rendered under "controversial" new HCFA regulations that took effect yesterday. The Akron Beacon Journal reports that home health agencies and workers are required to complete the 19-page Outcome and Assessment Information Set at regular intervals throughout a patient's care so that HCFA can set national treatment benchmarks and ultimately trim Medicare outlays. After the agency has collected the survey information, it plans to implement a prospective payment system in October 2000 -- reimbursing agencies a "flat fee for each specific treatment" rather than a "cost-plus" system that includes a small profit on each instance of treatment. As HCFA aims to rein in expenditures for the burgeoning industry, which climbed from $3.3 billion in 1990 to $18.1 billion last year, home health agencies are protesting the uncompensated administrative work. "The home health care industry is angry because they have to collect the data, which will be used to lower their revenues," said Michelle Boasten, head of home health care consulting firm FBE Service Network. Agencies will likely have to absorb the costs of hiring staff to enter questionnaire data collected "for almost all their patients, not just those enrolled in Medicare" (Drown, 2/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.