Bills Seek Expansion of Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners Roles in Home Health, Hospice Care

March 7th 2017
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor

Two proposed bills seek to expand the roles of health care professionals.

The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act was introduced last week. It would allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives to order home health services for Medicare beneficiaries, reportedHome Health Care News.

Although these practitioners can currently order nursing home care, they are prohibited from ordering less costly and less expensive home health care services, according to the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).

The bill was introduced by Sen Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen Ben Cardin (D-MD). Associations such as the NAHC and the Visiting Nurse Associations of America are in strong support of the bill.

“Under current law, only physicians are allowed to certify or initiate home health care for Medicare patients, even though they may not be as familiar with the patient’s case as the non-physician provider,” said Sen Collins. “In fact, in many cases, the certifying physician may not even have a relationship with the patient and must rely upon the input of the nurse practitioner, physician assistant, clinical nurse specialist, or certified nurse midwife to order the medically necessary home health care.”

Similar legislation that was introduced in the preceding Congress accumulated majority support in the Senate. Additionally, a companion bill in the House had more than 200 co-sponsors, according toHome Health Care News.

Last week, House of Representatives members Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) put forward a bill that, if passed, would allow PAs to act as attending physicians for hospice care.

A PA is often an individual’s primary caregiver, especially in rural areas. According to the NAHC, having to establish contact with another primary care provider before the patient can be transitioned to hospice can be incredibly inconvenient and burdensome to Medicare beneficiaries.

A bill that was similar to the Medicare Patient Access to Hospice Act was put forward in the last Congress and had bipartisan support,Home Health Care Newsreported.

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