Saturday, July 21, 2007

Walgreen expands Home Care business with acquisitin of Option Care

Walgreen, the huge drug store company, has expanded its role in the home care marketplace with the acquisition of Option Care.

Option Care is a national provider of specialty pharmacy and home infusion services. Through its pharmacy services, it provides medications and treatments for patients suffering from complex diseases, including cancer and multiple sclerosis. It also provides therapy for patients requiring intravenous medication or nutrition.

This latest move greatly expands Walgreen's existing specialty pharmacy business, adding 100 locations to its current 45 home-care facilities. Option Care has the largest geographic coverage in the industry with 400 managed care organizations. Furthermore, through Option Care, Walgreen gains access to medications that currently have limited distribution, giving customers a reason to choose its drugstore over the competition.

CMS Targets Houston and Los Angeles for Medicare Fraud Focus

Top officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said this week that the federal government is targeting Houston and Los Angeles because of suspected problems in both cities.

"We want to make sure the good operators are allowed to continue to operate and provide good, quality services," said acting Medicare administrator Herb Kuhn. "But we want to get those that are committing fraud out of the program."

Kuhn said Houston has been targeted, in part, because of the staggering growth of home health care agencies. Between October 2002 and May 2007, the number in Harris County increased from 151 to 403.

What do you think about his issue?

You may recall that I began projecting in about 2002 that the home health industry had about seven years of uninterrupted growth and financial prosperity before we see CMS pulling in the reigns again. That's been the pattern. Well, we're coming up on seven years since PPS went into effect in October of 2000.

There are two trends that you want to watch. Once is the proposed revision to PPS. The other is the rapidly growing number of home health agencies. Remember that growth in the number of home health agencies in the 1990's was one of the triggers that led to severe cuts in home helath spending under the balanced budget act of 1997. Over 25% of Medicare Certified Home Health Agencies were closed between October of 1997 and October of 2000.

Some folks suggested that Medicare purposely imposed severe cuts in order to drive agencies out of business. I won't go that far, but I do see the rapdily growing number of agencies as a trend that we need to watch. Not only does it increase competition in your marketplace, but it opens up the potential for fraud and abuse, and another industry-wide crack down.

Let us know if you see other examples of this trend.

PA Governor Signs Law Allowing Nurse Practitioners to Order Home Health Services

On Friday, July 20, 2007, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania signed into law a bill allowing Nurse Practitioners to sign certain orders that previously were limited to physicians.

Nurse Practitioners in Pennsylvania are now permitted to perform some duties only doctors had been allowed to do, such as ordering medical equipment, home health and hospice care; making therapy and dietitian referrals; and issuing homebound schooling certifications. The expanded responsibilities apply only to registered nurses with specialized training and advanced degrees.

Tine Hansen-Turton, head of the Philadelphia-based National Nursing Centers Consortium, said "Nurse practitioners are the cure for an ailing U.S. health system faced with a growing number of patients and a looming shortage of general doctors, especially ones willing to treat poor patients."

What do you think? How will the growth of Nurse Practitioners affect the future of home care? Post your comments below.

Ohio Governor Signs Order Granting Collecting Bargaining Rights to Independent Home Care Workers

We told your earlier about how the Service Employees International Union has aimed their sights on organizing home health care workers. Here's another example:

COLUMBUS — Gov. Ted Strickland signed an executive order Tuesday that gives collective bargaining rights to about 7,000 independent home health care workers and said he'll soon sign a similar order for child care workers.

Senate President Bill Harris, R-Ashland, called it a huge step backward. He said, "Collective bargaining will drive up costs and decrease the state's buying power without any tangible proof that quality will be improved for those served."

Before the close of business, a union — SEIU 1199 — had requested the list of health care workers from the state and announced plans to organize them.

"We are the health care workers' union. We absolutely understand the issues of the long-term care workers," said Service Employees International Union 1199 Executive Vice President Becky Williams. "We have talked to this group for some time."

The order covers about 2,000 nurses and 5,000 direct care aides who are independent contractors not employed by the state or home health care agencies. They provide services to elderly or disabled patients and are paid through Medicaid, the state and federally funded health care program.

What do you think about his issue? Post your comments below.

If you have other examples of union activity in home care, let us know.

Mayo Clinic Offers Home Care Advice

The highly respected and world renown Mayo Clinic is a supporter of home health care services. They recently posted a page on their web site offering advice to consumers on how to choose the best provider of home care services.

Here's a link to the site: May Clinic Home Care

One thing you may want to consider is posting a link to this site on your web site. Linking back to Mayo Clinic gives your patients and referral sources an objective source of information.

You can also use this in your home care sales efforts. Have your sales representatives encourage referral sources to visit the Mayo Clinic site.

All of this presumes that your agency is the one that patients or referral sources would choose after following the Mayo Clinic's advice.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another look at the Uninsured in America

A friend sent me a link to a web site with a video giving some facts about the 44 million uninsured people in America. I found it interesting and thought you might like to see it as well.

Take a look at http://www.freemarketcure.com/uninsuredinamerica.php .

Click on the play button below the video window to play the video.

What do you think? Comment below.

I think this is an interesting perspective and one that causes us to look more closely at the cost of healthcare insurance in America and why is costs so much. It affects us because so many of the uninsured working poor are home care aides and non-medical caregivers. We'd find it much easier to recruit and hire home care aides and caregivers if we were able to find an affordable solution for health insurance.

I've been watching the developments in Massachusetts, where the state legislature passed a law requiring all residents to have health insurance, and requiring all employers to provide health insurance or pay into a state fund. It's still pretty early in the implementation of this law, so we don't yet know the outcome.

Do we have any readers from Massachusetts who can give us a perspective on this new law? Comment below.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

SEIU Launches National Health Care Union to Transform Healthcare in America

The Service Employees International Union's recently launched a 1-million-member health care union and will have an annual budget of about $120 million and 4,000 organizers at its disposal to sign up the 10 million unorganized non-supervisory health care workers, according to union organizers.

The "bulk of the work" of the new union will be in organizing. Organizers expect to add 80,000 to 100,000 new members to the union's rolls in the next year. “If we grow, we have more influence," and are able to improve the lives of members and patients, organizers stated.
There are “several initiatives” that include drives among national hospital and nursing home chains, Catholic institutions, investor-owned hospitals and nursing homes, and teaching hospitals. In addition, the union is organizing some 35,000 home care workers in various states including Ohio, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For more information, visit their new web site.

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What's your experience with the SEIU? Do you have any of your home care employees who are members of this union? What has the impact been?

What's your view on how open home care workers are to being organized by this new healthcare union? Please give us your comments below.