Home health

County health department ends Medicare services but says other in-home care available for elderly

By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor

Whether home health services for Medicare patients is available in Republic County seems to be a question with a vague answer. Republic County Commissioners decided by consensus last week that the
Republic County Health Department will no longer offer home health services to people who are covered by Medicare.

But, says administrator Danielle White, the health department has not offered home health services reimbursed by Medicare for nearly 18 months.

“(That decision) affects no one right now,” she said. White blames a long list of Medicare requirements and a staff shortage for not participating in the program.

That doesn’t mean that the health department doesn’t offer home health services, she said. An average of 35 clients in Republic County receive services ranging from nursing care to homemaking services through the health department.

Those clients can pay $18 to $20 per hour out of their own pockets for assistance with homemaking or health services, or $30 per visit for skilled nursing care. Some qualify for Medicaid or programs administered through the North Central Kansas Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging, she said.

“Sometimes there’s a wait list, but we try to get people in,” she said.
White said the health department staff consists of two registered nurses, two licensed practical nurses, and two certified nurses aides who also provide homemaking services.

“In 2017 we provided in home services for 69 clients in which entailed 2,516 home health visits (no Medicare services included in these numbers) with 3.5 full-time equivalent home health employees,” she says. “In 2015, in which Medicare services were provided, Republic County Health Department served 69 clients in which entailed 2,548 home health visits with six FTE home health employees.”

The department has collected about $15,000 in revenue so far this year for home health services, she said.

Private companies

David-Paul Cavazos, administrator and Diane Reed, director of nursing, at Republic County Hospital, said hospital staff plans to meet with county commissioner May 21 to begin a conversation about the need for home health services in Republic County.

Cavazos said the hospital is not seeking to enter the home health market, “but we’re willing to help out and do what we can,” he said.
In My Home Care, a division of OCCK, Inc. serves about a dozen clients in Republic County and is willing to serve more, says Stephanie Gehring, administrator.

The service has hired a licensed practical nurse and physical and occupational therapy assistants who live in Republic County and is seeking additional staff here.

OCCK serves 15 counties in North Central Kansas with services for the general public, seniors, and persons with disabilities. The services of the home health agency are open to anyone, Gehring said. Clients may qualify for Medicare, Medicaid, other programs or pay privately for the services of In My Home.

The service offer skilled nursing care, helping with bathing and other personal care, and homemaking.

OCCK’s mission is to help people live independently.

“I feel like people do better, mentally and physically, when they can stay in their own homes as long as possible,” says Gehring.
Gehring said In My Home will add more local staff if the demand for their service grows.

Clients can be referred to In My Home by a physicians, but potential clients or family members may also contact them directly at the Salina office 785-823-2025, or on the web at www.inmyhomeocck. com.
A private company, Angels Care Home Health, also provides home health services in Republic County, said Cavazos.

Angels Care Home Health offices are located in eight states, including Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. The regional office that serves this area has moved several times, and may now be located in Russell.

“A number of home health services are really going after the private pay (clients),” he said, referring to clients who pay for services themselves. “But Medicare clients are a large part of this community.”

Medicare services
According to the website Medicare.gov, Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and/ or Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers eligible home health services like these:

  • Intermittent skilled nursing care
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech-language pathology services
  • Continued occupational services, and more

Usually, a home health care agency coordinates the services your doctor orders for you. Medicare doesn’t pay for: 24-hour-a-day care at home, meals delivered to your home, homemaker services, or personal care.

To qualify for Medicare reimbursement, a client must be considered homebound.