Miss. Senators Cosponsor Legislation to Increase Convenience, Reduce Costs in Home Health Care Delivery

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today announced their support of cost-saving legislation that would improve health care accessibility for people who need home health services.

The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act (S.578), sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-Me.), would end the prohibition on allowing nurse practitioners to certify patient eligibility for Medicare home health services. The measure is intended to increase timely access to home health services while also reducing Medicare spending by eliminating duplicative bureaucratic requirements.

“Complex and redundant federal regulations too often stand between patients and the health care services they need. This is true especially in rural areas, where even minor problems can be amplified by a lack of medical access,” Cochran said. “This bill would make a small change that will have a big impact on the lives of many people in Mississippi, and I commend Senator Collins for her work championing this issue.”

“By eliminating a burdensome bureaucratic step, this legislation would help increase the productivity and efficiency of health care throughout our nation,” Wicker said. “Considering the large percentage of nurse practitioners currently serving as primary care providers, it only makes sense for them to be able to certify patients for Medicare’s home health services. I applaud Senator Collins’s leadership on this issue.”

S.578 would end the requirement for nurse practitioners to obtain physician approval of their assessment that a patient requires Medicare home health services. This mandate is unnecessarily duplicative because nurse practitioners are already certified to perform such evaluations without any physician involvement. The Collins legislation would remove the physician-approval requirement and permit nurse practitioners to sign home health plans of care and certify Medicare patients for the home health benefit.

The outdated prohibition on nurse practitioners certifying patient eligibility has led to an inconvenient and expensive Medicare system where patients are unnecessarily left in more expensive institutional settings. The current policy is particularly burdensome to patients in rural areas where few physicians practice.

More than 2,700 nurse practitioners are currently providing daily care to thousands of Mississippians. Nationally, 75 percent of nurse practitioners serve as a primary care provider.

The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 27 Senators, has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.