Choosing a home care agency for a senior loved one can be confusing. There are a number of questions that must be navigated to determine whether home care is covered through Medicare or Medicaid, and if so, how much is covered? There are also questions about the level of care needed. Does the senior need skilled nursing assistance, companionship, or something in the middle? What is the home health care service that is most needed?
Joanne Cunningham, president and CEO of Home Care Association of New York State, a statewide association representing hundreds of home health care provider organizations from across the state of New York, and advocates like her are working to help keep patients at the center of the home care equation. They are also encouraging those within the industry, as well as legislators and policy makers, to help consumers by making the system easier to navigate and more approachable. Cunningham believes home care is a vital part of a health care delivery system, but she understands how consumers can sometimes feel overwhelmed and unsure of their options when seeking a home care agency for a senior loved one.
Several avenues Cunningham has worked to impact in New York state may help pave the way for changes nationally. For example, eight years ago New York shifted how home care services are delivered. While the entry point into the home care system is still essentially the same – based upon recommendations from primary physicians or discharge planners – individuals who need long-term in-home care and who are Medicaid eligible are presented with several managed long-term care plans in which to enroll. Each plan has its own group of home care agencies, professionals and other providers, giving patients the option to find a plan that best suits their needs.
Another area where Cunningham is advocating for change is through an effort to modernize statutes that regulate commercial insurance coverage. In New York state, for example, legislation written in the 1970s is still on the books. Cunningham points to the importance of updating and modernizing the statutes so that coverage for home care is broader, meeting the needs of today’s patients. In the 1970s, patients often had longer hospital stays and left needing only minimal home care. Today, hospital stays are shorter and patients who wish to have home care often initially have a much higher need of care.
Cunningham believes it’s important for the home care industry to think strategically about how to organize around the needs of patients. Working to integrate mental health services, physicians, pharmacies, chiropractors, and others involved in the continuum of care is a vital step to help showcase the possibilities of home care.
According to Cunningham, home care is a nimble, flexible problem solver for families and their senior loved ones. Helping families navigate the home care system and making it as user-friendly as possible on the consumer side will help home care agencies continue to grow and ultimately help more and more seniors remain in the comfort and safety of their homes.
To learn more about how the home care industry is working to meet the needs of today’s patients and their families, listen to the full interview with Joanne Cunningham in the Help Choose Home podcast series by searching for “Help Choose Home” on iTunes, Google, or on any device at https://player.fm/series/help-choose-home.
The Help Choose Home podcast series is a joint effort between the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), Axxess, and corecubed. The vision is to provide information and resources to help those with a care need learn more about healthcare at home. Podcasts are hosted by Merrily Orsini, president and CEO of corecubed, a firm dedicated exclusively to home care marketing to seniors.