The office of Inspector General is looking into how home health deals with pandemic issues. I wanted you to know about this.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has announced two new items of interest to NAHC home health members. One is an audit of home health telehealth services during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) and the second is a report on the challenges faced by home health agencies in responding to the PHE and the strategies used to respond.
Audit of Home Health Services Provided as Telehealth During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
The declaration of a public health emergency (PHE) on March 13, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to take proactive steps to support the response to COVID-19 through the use of section 1135 waivers. By means of this authority, CMS waived certain requirements in order to expand Medicare telehealth benefits to health care professionals who were previously ineligible, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and others. CMS also amended regulations to allow home health agencies to use telecommunications systems in conjunction with in-person visits. The amended regulations state that:
- the use of technology must be related to the skilled services being furnished, and
- the use of technology must be included in the plan of care with a description of how the technology will help achieve goals without substituting for an in-person visit.
OIG will evaluate home health services provided by agencies during the COVID-19 public health emergency to determine which types of skilled services were furnished via telehealth, and whether those services were administered and billed in accordance with Medicare requirements. OIG will report as overpayments any services that were improperly billed. We will make appropriate recommendations to CMS based on the results of our review.
This report is expected to be delivered during FY2021.
Home Health Agencies’ Challenges and Strategies in Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Home health agencies (HHAs) have faced unprecedented challenges to providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reported challenges include, but are not limited to, procuring necessary equipment and supplies, implementing telehealth to treat patients remotely, and addressing staffing shortages. However, the full spectrum of these challenges, including how challenges have evolved over time, is unknown. HHAs have used strategies to address these challenges, but the array of strategies and the extent to which HHAs found them helpful are also unknown.
This nationwide study will provide insights into the strategies HHAs have used to address the challenges presented by COVID-19, including how well their emergency preparedness plans served them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This report is expected to be delivered during FY2022.
NAHC Report will provide all the relevant details about the findings of these reports and any actions taken as a result of them.
The OIG Work Plan sets forth various projects including OIG audits and evaluations that are underway or planned to be addressed during the fiscal year and beyond by OIG’s Office of Audit Services and Office of Evaluation and Inspections. Projects listed in the Work Plan span the Department and include the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), public health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), and human resources agencies such as Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Administration on Community Living (ACL). OIG also plans work related to issues that cut across departmental programs, including State and local governments’ use of Federal funds, as well as the functional areas of the Office of the Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS). Some Work Plan items reflect work that is statutorily required.
Providers can see all active OIG Work Plan items for home health agencies and hospices, of which there is a fair number, by going to the OIG Active Work Plan Items webpage and entering their provider type in the search bar.
Posted in NAHC Report