Home health agencies are getting an additional six months to prepare for a new CMS rule aimed at improving quality and patient care.

The rule, first proposed by the Obama administration, required new training for staff and administrators and more coordination of care. Industry stakeholders asked the CMS for more time to comply with the rule. The CMS responded by delaying the original effective date from July 13 to Jan. 13, 2018.

The CMS will also exempt home health administrators employed before January from having to undergo the additional training. A home health agency administrator supervises clinical staffers who provide medical treatment to in-home patients. The Obama administration required that a home health agency administrator be a licensed physician or a registered nurse. It also required administrators to have at least one year of supervisory or administrative experience in home healthcare or a related healthcare program.

The industry argued that years of experience in the Medicare certified home health field should be considered an appropriate qualification for a home health administrator. But the CMS appears to have only met stakeholders halfway with its decision to grandfather only some administrators.

But the industry now also has more time to make changes aimed at enhancing integrated care. The rule requires a licensed clinician coordinate referrals and other services. The rule also mandates home health agencies facilitate communication with patients’ physicians.

The CMS estimates the rule would require home health agencies to spend $293 million in the first year and $290 million annually after that on adjusting resources, hiring more staff and making infrastructure changes.

About 5 million Medicare and Medicaid patients receive care from the estimated 12,600 home health agencies in the U.S., according to the CMS. Home health agencies provide skilled-nursing care, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

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Virgil Dickson reports from Washington on the federal regulatory agencies. His experience before joining Modern Healthcare in 2013 includes serving as the Washington-based correspondent for PRWeek and as an editor/reporter for FDA News. Dickson earned a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University in 2007.

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