The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) have commended the House and Senate for adding inclusion criteria to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act will permanently authorize physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) to order home healthcare services for Medicare patients, consistent with state law.

The CARES Act, which was approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Trump on March 27, has taken actions to bolster the nation’s healthcare response to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), including more than $1.6 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile to procure pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies that can be distributed to states with shortages. The legislation also provides significant assistance to families and small businesses, as well as takes steps to stabilize the US economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorization of NPs and PAs to order home care services for patients will ease some of the burden of hospital systems facing the influx of patients with COVID-19. “With the ability to order home health services, PAs can help to free up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and decrease the spread of the virus by moving patients back into the home setting, away from exposures to the virus,” said David E. Mittman, PA, president and chair of the AAPA Board of Directors, in a news release. “We applaud the Senate for enabling PAs to contribute more to the COVID-19 response.”

Previously, only physicians could order home health services such as skilled medical care, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, despite the fact that many patients in need of this care routinely saw NPs, PAs, and other advance practice providers as their primary clinicians.

This legislation will improve access to home health services and promote continuity of care for Medicare beneficiaries, particularly patients living in rural and medically underserved communities, where NPs and PAs may be the only providers available.

“We thank President Trump, the Senate and the House of Representatives for coming together in a bipartisan fashion to recognize the critical health care needs of seniors and the importance of authorizing NPs to certify and recertify home health care services to Medicare patients ― especially during this pandemic. This law will help ensure that seniors have timely access to home health care and reduce their potential exposure to COVID-19,” said Dr. Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP, president of AANP.“ Additionally, we are grateful for the funding to purchase necessary PPE and other resources for our nation’s health care providers. This law will equip NPs and other providers with the tools necessary to combat this pandemic as they serve on the front lines of health care.”

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The federal government’s “recognition of the need to pass this legislation now and their leadership in ensuring its inclusion in the emergency legislation demonstrates their commitment to ensuring healthcare providers are empowered to do everything they can for patients across our country,” stated Tillie Fowler, AAPA senior vice president, Advocacy and Government Relations, in the news release.

References

American Academy of Physician Assistants. AAPA commends Senate for including Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act in COVID-19 emergency legislation [news release]. https://www.aapa.org/news-central/2020/03/aapa-commends-senate-for-including-home-health-care-planning-improvement-act-in-covid-19-emergency-legislation/. Published March 26, 2020 Accessed March 26, 2020.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners. AANP Applauds President Trump on Signing of CARES Act [news release]. https://www.aanp.org/news-feed/aanp-applauds-president-trump-on-signing-of-cares-act. Published March 27, 2020. Accessed April 2, 2020.