A big exhale seemed to sound from the industry last week after the release of the final Medicare home health rule. No question the measure was imperfect, but it helps clear the way for firms to make plans and prepare for other regulatory changes. And of the latter, there are some big ones, including the start of the Home Health Value-Based Purchasing (HHVBP) model, which goes live nationally Jan. 1.

Not unlike the home health rule, there is much anticipation for the HHVBP model, which is based on how well an organization ranks compared  to its peers. Under the expanded initiative, home health agencies receive adjustments to their Medicare fee-for-service payments based on their performance against a set of three quality measures relative to their peers’ performance: Data from Outcome and Assessment Information Set (OASIS), completed Home Health Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) surveys and claims-based measures.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been bullish on this model ever since it tested it in nine states starting in 2016. The original model resulted in an average of 4.6% improvement in HHAs’ total performance scores and an average savings of $141 million to Medicare. Evaluation of the original model also found reductions in unplanned acute care hospitalizations and skilled nursing facility (SNF) stays, resulting in reductions in inpatient and SNF spending.

Understandably, the home health industry has voiced reservations toward the national expansion of HHVBP. Due to feedback from provider groups such as the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, CMS delayed the start of HHVBP to 2023. In the recent home health rule, CMS established 2022 as the baseline line. 2025 is the first payment year for the program.

The program symbolizes the ethos of healthcare at the moment: paying for value as opposed to volume, focusing on quality and savings, and keeping people out of the hospital. As companies and consultants continue to remind us, if you are not yet on board the value-based care bus, it’s time to purchase a ticket. Learn more about HHVBP  and how to prepare for it.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected].