Bipartisan Home Health Care Improvement Act Signed Into Law In Coronavirus Response Package

March 31, 2020
Press Release

EVANSTON, IL – Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced today that language from her legislation, H.R. 2150, the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act of 2019, was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020 as part of H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The legislation was originally introduced on April 9, 2019, with original cosponsors Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA), Ron Kind (D-WI), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Susan Wild (D-PA), and David Joyce (R-OH). This new law allows nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other professionals to order home health services for beneficiaries, reducing delays and increasing beneficiary access to care in the safety of their home.

Home health care is critical in providing support to older Americans and people with disabilities who prefer home and community-based services over institutional settings. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and clinical nurse specialists play an essential role in continuing, managing, and delivering health care to Americans in their homes. Though these advanced practitioners are authorized to be Medicare Part B providers, previous regulations required a physician to document their home health care services, delaying treatment and jeopardizing the health of many patients. This procedural burden also increased the overall cost to the Medicare program as physicians have higher reimbursement rates than those of these practitioners. Now, this burden is removed.

“Nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and clinical nurse specialists offer invaluable, personal, professional care to seniors and individuals with disabilities across our country. Their delivery of home health care is particularly essential during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Through this legislation, Medicare beneficiaries now have increased access to prompt, cost-effective, and high-quality home health care when they need it the most. This new law is a win for patients, a win for providers, and a win for Medicare’s bottom line.”

Congressman Carter added, “As a pharmacist for more than 30 years, I understand the importance of the entire health care team. Nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and physician assistants provide critical home health services and we need to ensure patients have access to them. The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act will increase access to this care while lowering costs at the same time. I am very glad our bipartisan legislation made it across the finish line to help patients.”

“I’m proud to have worked on a bipartisan basis to pass the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, which will expand access to home health services for seniors. In rural areas like Wisconsin, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are often the only providers in their community. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important we give Medicare beneficiaries the option to stay out of the hospital and receive the care they need at home,” said Rep. Ron Kind.

Rep. Mike Kelly added, “Telemedicine provides a safer and more convenient way for seniors to receive health care in the comfort of their own homes, which is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic. While home health care is crucial during this public health emergency, it’s availability will benefit Medicare beneficiaries far beyond the present moment. “

Congresswoman Wild said, “During this time of crisis, we must make it as easy as possible for seniors and people with disabilities to get the care they need. The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act of 2019 will allow Medicare beneficiaries to get fast and flexible care where and when they need it. Our nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and home care teams are a critical part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and should be able to practice at the top of their licenses. I’m incredibly proud that we were able to come together to cut red tape and support their work in a bipartisan fashion, which will improve patient outcomes and cut healthcare costs.”

"As the proud husband of a nurse, I know first-hand how important their contributions are to our communities and to our nation's health care system, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Rep. Dave Joyce (OH-14). "Allowing our nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and physician assistants more authority to provide home health services for Medicare beneficiaries is critical for our nation’s seniors and citizens with disabilities. The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act will expand access to those services during this difficult time while also reducing costs for patients. I was extremely glad to see this bipartisan bill included in the latest COVID-19 relief package and proud that the President has signed it into law." 

“AARP appreciates the bipartisan leadership of Members of Congress to expand access to home health care by including the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act as part of the CARES Act. The legislation will allow advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants to order home health care in Medicare and Medicaid. As a result, more older adults can get the care that they need at home, which is especially important during this difficult time,” said Bill Sweeney, AARP’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.

“On behalf of the more than 290,000 NPs, we would like to thank Congresswoman Schakowsky for her leadership and support, to ensure that seniors will have timely access to home health care services.  During this pandemic, it is even more critical that NPs are able to certify their patients need for home health care.  We must keep our patients safe and free up much needed resources. Our nations NPs appreciate all your efforts and remain committed to fighting COVID-19 and providing high-quality care to patients,” said AANP President, Sophia L. Thomas DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP

“AAPA commends Representative Schakowsky for introducing the Home Health Care Planning and Improvement Act and her leadership in having it enacted as part of the CARES Act. As a result of this law, patients who rely on PAs for their care will have better access to home health services and benefit from greater continuity of care. With the ability to order home health services, PAs can help to free up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and decrease the spread of the virus by moving patients back into the home setting, away from exposures to the virus,” said David E. Mittman, PA, DFAAPA, President and Chair of the Board for AAPA.

Cosponsors of H.R. 2150 include Representatives Armstrong, Axne, Bacon, Barragan, Beatty, Bera, Blumenauer, Blunt Rochester, Bonamici, Boyle, Brooks (IN), Brownley, Carbajal, Cardenas , Cartwright, Case, Castor, Castro, Cheney, Chu, Cicilline, Clarke, Cohen, Connolly, Craig, Crow, Cuellar, R. Davis (IL), Davis (CA), DeFazio, DelBene, Delgado, Dingell, Doyle, Emmer, Escobar, Finkenauer, Fitzpatrick, Foster, Gabbard, Gallagher, Gallego, Garamendi, Gianforte, Golden, Gosar, Graves, Griffith, Grijalva, Guest, Haaland, Hagedorn, Heck, Herrera Beutler, Himes, Huffman, Johnson (OH), Katko, Kelly (MS), Kennedy, Khanna, Kilmer, King (IA), Kirkpatrick, Kuster, Langevin, Larsen, Larson, Latta, Lawson, Lee (CA), Lee (NV), Lipinski, Loebsack, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Luetkemeyer, Lujan, S.P. Maloney (NY), Massie, Matsui, McCollum, McGovern, McKinley, McMorris Rodgers, McNerney, Meng, Miller, Moulton, Mucarsel-Powell, Napolitano, Neal, Neguse, Newhouse, Norton, O'Halleran, Olson, Pappas, Pascrell, Payne, Perry, Peters, Pingree, Pocan, Porter, Price, Rice (NY), Roybal-Allard, Ruiz, Ruppersberger, Ryan, Schiff, Schrader, Schrier, Sewell, Sires, Smith (WA), Smith (NE), Smith (NJ), Smith (MO), Stefanik, Suozzi, Thompson (MS), Thompson (PA), Tipton, Tonko, Trone, Underwood, Van Drew, Velazquez, Walorski, Wasserman Schultz, Watkins, Welch, Wittman, Yarmuth, and Young.