Bill Dombi, president and CEO of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, speaks Sunday at the opening general session of the annual conference. Credit: NIck Caito

The upcoming release of the home health final rule loomed large Sunday, the first day of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice’s annual conference.

It’s in the “crosshairs as we speak,” President and CEO Bill Dombi told the audience of hundreds at the opening general session at America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis.

The rule, which is set to be finalized in the next 10 days, according to NAHC advocacy experts, will determine if the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will adhere to its proposed rule. Released in June, the proposed proposed regulation dangled a 4.2% rate reduction, translating to a loss of $810 million, for home health agencies in calendar year 2023.

Dombi said the association is focused most intently on the permanent behavioral adjustment cut of 7.69% to the Patient Driven Groupings Model.

“We are on the edge of our seats waiting to see what happens,” Dombi said. 

The proposed rule, which, if realized, according to Dombi, would send 51% of home health firms into the red next year, has unleashed a torrent of opposition from the home health community.

It is the “most intense advocacy effort I’ve experienced in my lifetime,” Dombi said Sunday, noting that the interest in the rule has reached the highest levels of government with a member of Congress and the president meeting about it on Air Force One.

Senate and House bills have been introduced that would postpone Medicare payment rates until 2026. NAHC also has threatened legal action against CMS if the final rule includes the cuts contained in the proposed rule. Dombi noted Sunday that litigation is a last resort.

“We will do everything we have to do to protect your interests,” he said.

The workforce shortage was another major subject of the opening general session Sunday, which showcased advocacy leaders at NAHC presenting the hot-button home care, home health and hospice legislative and regulatory issues. NAHC is partnering with organizations on two separate studies — one studying healthcare professionals not working in home care and understanding what is driving them to want to leave their jobs; and the other analyzing the personas of home care workers. NAHC also has launched the Home Care Workforce Action Alliance with the Home Care Association of America.

NAHC is celebrating its 40th year as an association. The conference continues through Tuesday.