Legislative Update: January 8, 2019

Welcome back home-based health care and hospice advocates. Since our last update before year-end, the federal government finished up the 115th Congress and new Congressional Members were sworn on January 3, 2019. Our team remained on the Hill and monitoring through the holidays. The 116th Congress has brought in new leadership in the House and continued struggles related to the partial government shutdown. The House and Senate leadership will drive the negotiations to open the government while rank and file Members work on introducing new bills for the new Congress.
Congressional offices are eager to get to work and we are monitoring their priorities for 2019-2020. In reviewing the bills from the 115th Congress, we are comfortable supporting the following policy areas listed below. 
Note: Until a bill is released for public vetting, this list is a suggestion of policy areas we would support if similar to our agenda priorities.
Improve Access to Home Care (S.445) - Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act of 2017, introduced Feb. 27, 2017 and H.R. 1825, introduced April 11, 2017 (expected to be reintroduced in 2019)
This legislation would allow nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to order Medicare home health care. S. 445 had 46 bipartisan cosponsors and H.R. 1825 had 182 cosponsors. This legislation has the support of a broad stakeholder community, including the major nurse associations and is likely to be reintroduced in the new Congress.
Improve Access to Palliative Care (S. 1334/H.R. 2797) - Patient Choice and Quality Care Act of 2017
The Patient Choice and Quality Care Act provides patients and their families new resources related to advanced care planning. This bipartisan legislation directs the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to conduct an Advanced Illness Coordination Services demonstration, which will allow an interdisciplinary team to provide early palliative care and wrap-around, home-based services to individuals with multiple and complex chronic conditions. S. 1334 had 7 cosponsors and H.R. 2797 had 31 cosponsors in the last Congress. The legislation was introduced by Members of Congress who are strong champions related of increasing access to palliative care and advanced care planning (Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03)). It is likely the bill authors will reintroduce the legislation or similar proposals in the new Congress.
Monitor PDGM Payment Reform (S.3458) -  Introduced Sept. 18, 2018 and HR.6932, introduced Sept. 27, 2018 (similar S.3545)   
To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to improve home health payment reforms under the Medicare program. This legislation would ensure the new Medicare home health Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) does not inappropriately reduce payments for home health services. S. 3458 had only one sponsor in the last Congress; H.R. 6932 had 10 bipartisan cosponsors; and S. 3545 had only two sponsors. Although the number of sponsors were relatively low, they included Members of the Ways and Means Committee who has jurisdiction over Medicare and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) who is a long-time home health champion. It is likely these Members will continue to engage on issues regarding the new PDGM model in the new Congress.
Access to home-based care, hospice, and coordination of services remains our top priority on the Hill. If you are interested in advocacy and learning more about our efforts, please follow us on Twitter (@ElevatingHOME and @VNAA) and Facebook (@ElevatingHOME and @YourVNAA).
Be sure to join our first Public Policy Town Hall of 2019 on February 27 at 2:00 p.m. ET. Contact Heather Corbin to register for the call. 

Our team members look forward to working with you this year as we continue to expand access for home health and hospice care through advocacy and sharing a united voice with our elected leaders.

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