Volume 6, Number 43 February  13, 2017



Dear Healthcare at Home Colleague,

I am writing to inform you that we may have jumped the gun a bit in the way we characterized the sudden closure on January 13 of all 19 Bethany HomeHealth Services locations in our February 1 issue. Bethany was a CMS 1.5-star HHA serving East Texas.

Our intention was to warn our readers about the risks of accepting large numbers of patients from closed competitors without notifying their MAC, not to in any way impugn the reputation of a business entity that no longer exists. We apologize if we got some of the details wrong. We have learned that it was not an FBI raid but a 100% ZPIC payment suspension that led to a business decision to cease operations.

Though the Longview News-Journal reported on January 13 that Bethany had shuttered its doors and stopped returning telephone calls in five East Texas cities, without advance notice to employees or to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, as required by law, the former company's COO Stacy Landers assured us that the abrupt closure of all 19 locations was nothing more than a business decision to no longer participate in the CMS program. As the company's business was nearly 100 percent Medicare, that meant ceasing business entirely.

There was no FBI raid, we now know. We simply got that wrong. Again, we apologize, to our readers and to Bethany ownership.

Correction
What we should have said is that we had heard from various employees that it is common knowledg
e among staff that the company was under a ZPIC investigation for months and had been placed on 100 percent payment suspension under
42 CFR 405.371-372, allegedly due to extraordinarily high average lengths of stay for patients with low acuity, reportedly over 200 days, compared to the national average in the 50 to 60-day range.

The Longview News-Journal was the first to raise questions about whether the decision to close was planned or sudden. Writing from the employee perspective, the local daily pointed out in its January 13 story that Texas legal code requires home health entities that are closing permanently to notify the state Department of Aging and Disability Services within five days before closing an agency, branch office or alternative delivery site. The article added, "According to Christine Mann, spokeswoman for the Texas Health & Human Services Commission, the commission's staff learned about the closure plans in a phone conversation Thursday [January 12] from Bethany. 'At this point, we are not sure if this is a permanent closure or just temporary,' Mann said. 'We have only had verbal confirmation.'"

In a follow-up report in its January 16 online edition, the News-Journal added that Ms. Mann said that "Bethany had disclosed pending closures only in Longview, Carthage, Nacogdoches, Texarkana and Lufkin, not companywide."

A January 18 report by KTRE-TV, the ABC affiliate serving Lufkin and Nacogdoches, however, quoted Ms. Mann as saying that Bethany told the Commission "seven offices would be closing effective January 27." Still, phone calls to company headquarters in Plano from KTRE, Longview News-Journal and us went unanswered as early as January 13. The television report stated that "several clients and workers with the company have called KTRE seeking answers, saying the company has not been in communication with them about the future of its services."

KTRE also posted a photograph of a sign posted on the locked door of the Lufkin branch office, reading, "Attendant's Checks: All checks were mailed out from are [sic] corporate office, if you have any questions please contact are [sic] corporate office at (972-248-2441)... Thank You" Calls to that number were answered by a generic voice recording Monday afternoon.

While the state Health & Human Services Commission had been notified one day in advance of the closing, the newspaper added, "the company had not notified the real estate company that manages and leases its Longview building, Zach Williams Commercial Real Estate, or the Texas Workforce Commission of its closure plans. In contrast, Workforce Commission Communications Director Lisa Givens said American HomePatient Services notified her office before laying off 98 employees at its Longview support center and closing on December 31."

 

Editor signature
Tim Rowan



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