Owings Mills, MD — Aug. 23, 2021 — Increasing vaccination rates among home health workers is critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. The National Association for Home Care & Hospice, in consultation with industry leaders, estimates a vaccination range of 40 percent to 90 percent, depending on the company and the discipline of the caregiver. With the rise of the Delta variant, NAHC is joining forces with the National Minority Health Association and its "Flex for Checks" program in a concerted effort to increase vaccination among home care workers.
The Flex for Checks (www.flexforchecks.org) community-based program was developed as part of an $11.1 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Its purpose is to mobilize home care workers to increase vaccination confidence and rates in underserved communities in the fight against COVID-19. The NMHA has also enlisted the support of television personality and author, Dr. Ian Smith, as its campaign spokesperson.
"We need to be honest and recognize our vaccination shortfall as an industry," said NAHC President and CEO Bill Dombi. "But, as an industry, we need to come together to solve it. This is even more of an urgent issue with the Delta variant quickly spreading among the unvaccinated, coupled with colder winter months approaching. We are pleased to join with NMHA in this collaborative effort."
CMS Expands Medicare Payments for At-Home COVID-19 Vaccinations
CMS is expanding opportunities for people to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in their home. To ensure Medicare beneficiaries who have difficulty leaving their homes or are otherwise hard-to reach can receive the vaccination, healthcare providers can now receive additional payments for administering vaccines to multiple residents in one home setting or communal setting of a home.
Today’s announcement aims to further boost the administration of COVID-19 vaccination – including second and third doses – in smaller group homes, assisted living facilities, and other group living situations by allowing vaccine providers to receive the increased payment up to five times when fewer than ten Medicare beneficiaries get the vaccine on the same day in the same home or communal setting. This policy will help ensure that at-risk patients in smaller settings have the same opportunities as others to receive the vaccination.
While many Medicare beneficiaries are able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at a retail pharmacy or from a health care provider, some people have great difficulty leaving their homes or cannot easily access vaccination in these settings. These individuals are often at-risk patients who could require complex care if they contracted COVID-19 and needed to be hospitalized. To better serve this group, Medicare previously increased the total payment amount for at-home vaccination from approximately $40 to approximately $75 per vaccine dose, in certain circumstances.
Delivering COVID-19 vaccination to access-challenged and hard-to-reach individuals poses some unique challenges, such as ensuring appropriate vaccine storage temperatures, handling, and administration. Along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance, today’s announcement helps vaccine providers meet these challenges and successfully administer vaccinations.
The additional payment amount also accounts for the clinical time needed to monitor a beneficiary after the vaccine is administered, as well as the upfront costs associated with administering the vaccine safely and appropriately in a beneficiary’s home. The payment rate for administering each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the additional in-home payment amount, is geographically adjusted based on where the service is furnished.
How to Find a COVID-19 Vaccine
As states and the federal government continue to break down barriers – like where vaccines can be administered – resources for connecting communities to vaccination options remain key.
Unvaccinated individuals and those looking to assist friends and family can:
1. Visit vaccines.gov (English) or vacunas.gov (Spanish) to search for vaccines nearby.
2. Text GETVAX (438829) for English or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish for near instant access to details on three vaccine sites in the local area.
3. Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline at 1-800-232-0233 (TTY: 1-888-720-7489) for assistance in English and Spanish.
Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccines
The federal government is providing the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge or with no cost sharing for Medicare beneficiaries. As a condition of receiving free COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, vaccine providers cannot charge patients any amount for administering the vaccine.
CMS recently updated the Medicaid vaccine toolkit to reflect the enactment of the ARP at https://www.medicaid.gov/state-resource-center/downloads/covid-19-vaccine-toolkit.pdf.
For individuals who are under-insured, vaccine providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine through the COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) after the claim to the individual’s health plan for payment has been denied or only partially paid. Information is available at https://www.hrsa.gov/covid19-coverage-assistance.
For individuals who are uninsured, vaccine providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals without insurance through the Provider Relief Fund, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Information on the COVID-19 Claims Reimbursement to Health Care Providers and Facilities for Testing, Treatment, and Vaccine Administration for the Uninsured Program is available at https://www.hrsa.gov/CovidUninsuredClaim.
More information on Medicare payment for COVID-19 vaccine administration – including a list of billing codes, payment allowances and effective dates – is available at https://www.cms.gov/medicare/covid-19/medicare-covid-19-vaccine-shot-payment.
More information regarding the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Requirements and how the COVID-19 vaccine is provided through that program at no cost to recipients is available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/vaccination-provider-support.html.
Leading Home Care Agency Joins Effort
AccentCare has agreed to join in the launch by introducing Flex for Checks to its employees with a goal of 5,000 shots. "We recognize that the industry has a problem when it comes to vaccinations," said CEO Stephan Rodgers. "Vaccination is the first line of defense against COVID-19 and we want to be part of the solution. This is why we are aggressively encouraging our team members to get vaccinated."
The HRSA grant is part of approximately $125 million available through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) "American Rescue Plan" to develop and support a community-based workforce that will serve as trusted voices, sharing information about COVID-19 vaccines, increasing vaccine confidence, and addressing barriers to vaccination for those living in vulnerable and medically underserved communities.
Grant funding will help community-based organizations like NMHA better mobilize frontline home health workers as trusted messengers to conduct on-the-ground outreach to educate individuals with reliable information about vaccinations. The program will reward home care agency workers for helping guide consumers to receive a vaccination, as well as for getting vaccinated themselves.
"We are thrilled to partner with NAHC and AccentCare as we seek to get as many home care workers and people in underserved areas vaccinated as possible," said Burgess Harrison, NMHA Executive Director. "Nothing like this has been undertaken in this manner, where home care agencies, workers, consumers, pharmacies, and software companies come together and flex their arms in the fight of our lives against COVID-19."
The National Minority Health Association, founded in 1988 by Dr. David L. Dalton, Chairman and CEO, UNIVEC Conglomerate, Inc. (UNVC), achieved its initial mission of ensuring the establishment of Offices of Minority Health in all 50 states. Today the NMHA is adding to its mission and deploying new programs that utilize patient-centered, value-based care, and new ways of enhancing care to patients where they are, lowering costs, and improving outcomes for minority and underserved communities. To find out more, visit theNMHA.org. Become a member of the NMHA Health Equity Action Leaders network (HEAL) and join the fight for health equity: thenmha.org/donation.
Help build confidence in the vaccine: GoFundMe.com/thenmha
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice is the voice of home care and hospice. NAHC represents the nation’s 33,000 home care and hospice providers, along with the more than two million nurses, therapists, and aides they employ. These caregivers provide vital services to Americans who are aged, disabled, and ill. Some 12 million patients depend on home care and hospice providers, who depend on NAHC for the best in advocacy, education, and information. NAHC is a nonprofit organization that helps its members maintain the highest standards of care. nahc.org
AccentCare, Inc. is a nationwide leader in post-acute healthcare, with innovative partnerships and care models covering the full continuum from personal, non-medical care to skilled nursing, rehabilitation, palliative care, hospice, and care management. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, AccentCare has over 30,000 compassionate professionals in more than 250 locations, collectively serving over 200,000 individuals across 31 states. The company operates under regional brand names, including AccentCare, Alliance for Health, Gareda, Guardian, HRS, Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care, Sta-Home, Southeastern Health Care at Home, and Texas Home Health.
AccentCare has over 60 strategic partnerships with insurance companies, physician groups, and major health systems, including joint venture companies branded as AccentCare Asante Home Health, AccentCare Fairview, AccentCare UCLA Health, AccentCare UC San Diego Health at Home, and Texas Home Health Group, an affiliation with Baylor Scott & White Health.
Among its distinctions, AccentCare has a 4.5-star quality rating for legacy home health agencies, many of which have earned the HomeCare Elite distinction. All hospice and home health locations are CHAP- or Joint Commission-accredited, with designations from the We Honor Veterans program. The company’s approach to care, including proprietary RightPath® disease-specific programs, leads the industry in avoidance of unplanned re-hospitalizations, faster starts of care, and quality performance. accentcare.com
This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $11.1million. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.
©2021 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. This article originally appeared in Home Care Technology: The Rowan Report. Click here to subscribe. It may be freely reproduced provided this copyright statement remains intact. email@example.com