What Do You Mean, “August Recess?”

Let me second Lauren’s post that August Recess isn’t all fun and games. For me, Congress’s month-long break from Washington, DC, is actually the beginning of a busy few weeks in the office.

Look out for an updated timeline on the HAN website later this month!
Look for an updated timeline online later this month!

August is the quiet lull in the year when another successful Advocacy Intensive is behind us, MedPAC has not met for months, and the Final Rule for Hospice has been posted.  I actually get to catch up on work! Not only did I clean out 1000+ emails from my inbox last week, but I also get to update the Regulatory Timeline and begin editing the Medicare Hospice Benefit Overview and the Hospice Policy Compendium. This year, the two-tiered payment rate for Routine Home Care and the Service Intensity Add-On (SIA) are key additions to these documents. But I also rely on the Research Department at NHPCO to compile the data for Facts and Figures; some aspects of this data are included in the MHB Overview and the Compendium. And I’ll also have to wait for MedPAC to reconvene to learn about their current projections for hospice margins.

And once I make my updates, the team reviews the documents, makes edits, I pass all of these notes to graphic design, etc. Nothing is a one-step process to get policy documents out the door, and that’s okay! We want to make sure they are the most accurate and most useful documents possible to reflect the needs and concerns of the hospice community.

So look for updated materials from HAN in the coming weeks and months! That’s when I’ll be able to take my own recess.



Categories HAN
Categories HAN

It’s the little things.

I just wanted to share a bit of great advocacy today from Amedisys Hospice. Randy Hensley, who attended the Advocacy Intensive last month, went back home to Southern Indiana and did some amazing follow-up work. He crafted a simple and direct letter (see picture)LTE to the editor of his local paper thanking Senator Dan Coats and Congressman Todd Young for taking the time to listen to his hospice stories and consider helping the hospice community. He submitted these notes to several local papers, and one of them published it! I have a few thoughts about this letter, and why I think it’s just fantastic.

  1.  It’s the right length. This letter is short and direct. It doesn’t go into extreme detail, it’s a simple thank you and description. When local media outlets look to publish letters, this is the length they’re looking for- column inches are hard to come by!
  2. It thanks Senator Coats and Congressman Young. Without being obsequious, it thanks two very busy and important Members of Congress for their time, publicly. Members of Congress are used to hearing frustrations and concerns, so a little ‘thank you’ goes a really long way!
  3. It ran in the right paper. We say this a lot here- while everyone loves thinking about getting a letter published in the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune, those simply aren’t the papers your Members of Congress use to keep their fingers on the pulse of their communities. Randy got this published in the Jeffersonville Evening News and Tribune– a Southern IN local paper. Believe it or not, this clipping has more of a chance of being on the radar of Senator Coats and Congressman Young than anything run in a larger paper.
  4. Randy did his follow-up. When the letter ran in the Evening News and Tribune, Randy sent the clipping to the right folks in the offices of Congressman Young and Senator Coats. By closing the loop like this, he has gone a long way to becoming a trusted resource on hospice issues for those two offices- I wouldn’t be surprised if they checked in with Randy the next time they have a question about hospice care- and that’s one of the ultimate goals of Hospice Advocacy!

So cheers to you Randy and Amedisys. You guys knocked this one out of the park!

HAN: Behind the Scenes

I’d like to take a moment and explain to everyone some of the ‘behind the scenes’ work that we do here at HAN. You all see the Advocacy Intensive, the videos and policy updates, and the emails keeping you informed. What you may not know, is that one of the major wheels that keeps our office turning is our Grassroots Database. I have the distinct pleasure of maintaining that database, and am currently elbows-deep in trying to update email addresses, mailing addresses, career changes, and other information that we need to run a successful grassroots advocacy organization.

This is what happens when you never clean your database....not really, but it is our irrational fear.
This is what happens when you never clean your database….not really, but it is our irrational fear.

Most of the data you see on our website is pulled from this database. This is how we email Congress, how we email you, how we figure out who is an active-advocate, and who is ignoring our emails. It is really the brain of the operation (sorry Tony). But with extensive use, this brain can get…cluttered. Part of it is because it has not been cleaned out in a very long time. Part of it is simple facts of life: people change jobs and email addresses and last names. It is a dirty, time-consuming, and rather boring job. But it is essential to the efficient functioning of our team.

Do you have a part of your job that is essential, but perhaps not the most exciting? Every job has those duties. Here at HAN, we take the month of August to try and focus on those jobs while Congress is back in the district. That way, when they come back to DC…we are waiting for them.

Concerned about the Hospice Final Rule? Learn from the experts!

I know everyone here is used to listening to Tony, Karen and (eek!) myself, but maybe you’d like to hear from some other voices for a change?

More likely, you might have some serious questions/concerns about the new changes CMS has undertaken in the FY2016 Final Rule. Well, fear not! Judi Lund Person, VP of Regulatory Compliance, and Carol Spence, VP of Quality & Research, will be presenting a Webinar on August 25, 2015 that will examine the FY 2016 Hospice Wage Index Final Rule and help you understand the many important provisions it contains.

The 90 minute program will air from 2:00pm-3:30pm EST on August 25, 2015. To register for the Webinar, please visit this registration page.

Both of these ladies are phenomenally well-versed in all things CMS, and I am sure this will be an incredibly informative presentation. A great one for an IDT/office meeting! Hope you can join us!


So what has HAN done for you lately?

One of the most frustrating things about politics and the legislative process is the stop/start/go/wait/yes/no nature of it. We were blowing up your inbox, your facebook, your twitter, having call-in campaigns and generally shouting from the rooftops in July, and now it’s all radio silence. What gives?

Well, there has been a lot going on behind the scenes here in DC. First and foremost, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) posted the final rule last Friday and it included a 3 month delay in the implementation of the new payment model for routine home care, which will now start on January 1, 2016. This is undeniably in part because of your advocacy!

Beginning on January 1, 2016, routine home care payments will change to the new two-tiered rate. The new service intensity add-on (SIA) payment will also begin on January 1. Members can view the more detailed Regulatory Alert on the NHPCO website.

The halls of Congress are empty during recess, but that does not mean HAN isn't working!
The halls of Congress are empty during recess, but that does’t mean HAN isn’t working!

We’re sure you have questions, and HAN is working closely with our Congressional champions to figure out some crucial next steps. Congress is back at home for the August in-district work period now, so it’s taking us a little longer to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. We hope to have a full explainer email out to you soon that gives an in-depth look at what’s next for Hospice Advocacy in the 2nd half of 2015. In the meantime, Jonathan Keyserling, our esteemed Executive Director, has taken the time to talk through where we are now and what to expect in the near future.

If you have specific questions, feel free to reach out to us directly. If you need talking points or advice for follow up on a Congressional site visit, we’re happy to have a call or email conversation with you. And make sure you are taking advance of the August Recess, and visiting/contacting your Members of Congress while they are in the district. They might be harder for us to track down, but they are right in your backyard! Help us out and make contact with them while they are in the district office.

Again, you’ll hear from us soon with a more detailed update. Until then, thanks for all you do, and have a great weekend!