Home Health Agencies Get More Time to Prepare for New Medicare Rules

Home health agencies (HHAs) can breathe a sigh of relief now that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have published a Final Rule delaying the effective date of the revised Medicare Conditions of Participation (CoP) published earlier this year. The effective date is now January 13, 2018.

CMS issued a proposed rule in April seeking comments on the new effective date (see our prior blog) and received favorable responses from a large number of HHAs, which reported that the revised CoP include numerous changes that require time for planning, testing, training and implementation. For example, the new CoP revise personnel qualification requirements, add new patient rights and impose new quality assessment and infection control obligations on HHAs.

In addition, the new CoP require HHAs to undertake data-driven performance improvement projects (PIPs). When CMS first issued the revised CoP in January, it had provided a six-month phase-in period for these PIPs in recognition of the time it would take HHAs to collect the data necessary to identify areas for performance improvement. CMS has stated that it continues to believe that a phase-in period is appropriate and has set an effective date of July 13, 2018, for the new PIPs. HHAs are advised to begin identifying areas for improvement now so that they can implement effective PIPs next July.

The Final Rule also addresses some commenters’ concerns about the release of updated Interpretive Guidelines for HHAs. (The current Guidelines can be found in Appendix B of the Medicare State Operations Manual.) CMS has stated that revisions to reflect the new CoP are currently underway and that it expects to release a preliminary draft for informal input in the fall of 2017, with a final version available in December 2017. However, CMS cautions that a delay in the release of revised Interpretive Guidelines would not require a further delay of the effective date of the CoP.

For more information on how the new CoP affect HHAs in Connecticut, please contact Karen A. Jeffers (kjeffers@pullcom.com), Margaret A. Bartiromo (mbartiromo@pullcom.com) or Karen P. Wackerman (kwackerman@pullcom.com).