News Roundup March 27th, 2020

As the coronavirus continues its path through the US a variety of sectors at this juncture are revealing gaps and inefficiencies in their systems, including healthcare. While lawmakers on the hill are scrambling to approve emergency funding to support segments hardest hit by the pandemic, health workers in the trenches are still experiencing hardships and need more assistance. The threat of systemic collapse in home health and healthcare in general is clear and present. The survival of the industry will heavily depend on the success of a series of programs passing through the chambers by lawmakers from the local levels to the top. 

Amid the COVID-19 crisis the US home health industry is experiencing a major upheaval in our systems sending some agencies and businesses into a tailspin. Caregivers are leaving their jobs, medical supplies are in short supply and the entire industry is approaching a breaking point.

From The New York Times

“As hospitals continue to handle an influx of coronavirus cases, patients who need care but are not critically ill are likely to be sent home. If home care providers can’t stay afloat or decline to offer services, those patients will “face a rapid, immediately life-threatening deterioration” of their health, said Al Cardillo, president of the New York group.  Compounding the industry’s financial woes are bidding wars for essential medical equipment, including latex gloves and coveted N95 masks, which provide a higher level of protection than surgical masks. Private companies and public agencies are fighting for limited supplies – and those with the biggest pocketbooks are winning.”


Home healthcare workers who are often underpaid are being overworked in these precarious times. They are experiencing systemic stress in many aspects of the job. Without additional support from the government and adequate protection due to shortages in PPE, the entire industry is facing risks to their stability. With limited, and oftentimes, inadequate support for innovative care like ‘telehealth’ the prospects of home health as it currently stands are tenuous. 

From Washington Post

“Brownlee is one of the millions of health-care workers whose challenges have been largely overlooked in the United States’ halting mobilization against the novel coronavirus: the personal aides, hospice attendants, nurses and occupational or physical therapists who deliver medical or support services to patients in their homes. At least 12 million people in the United States depend on such services every year, according to the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, many of them older or coping with severe disabilities.”

The Older Americans Act of 2020 which began in 1965, reauthorized in 2016 as a program to support a wide range of home and community based services has passed a key bipartisan vote in Congress last week and has now been reauthorized by the President.

From AGS (American Geriatrics Society)

“Originally passed in 1965 and last reauthorized in 2016, the Older Americans Act has been vital to health and well-being for older people. The Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 will:

  • Allow for annual increases in authorized funding, a change critical to helping programs keep pace with our country’s shifting demographics.
  • Extend authorization for the RAISE Family Caregivers Act by one year.
  • Allow projects to improve the direct care workforce.
  • Modernize mechanisms for supporting better health, from coordinating with state assistive technology programs to adding or clarifying screenings and programs to improve vaccination, nutrition, social isolation, and preventive health.
  • Support a robust new research and demonstration authority for the Administration on Aging.

Eliminate a 10-percent cap on serving grandparents and older relative caregivers under the National Family Caregiver Support Program.”

More from McKnights Senior Living

“Since 1965, the OAA has supported older adults through programs designed to prevent abuse and neglect, support caregivers, offer employment and community service opportunities, promote nutrition (for instance, through Meals on Wheels) and improve transportation options. The Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 includes a 7% increase in funding in the initial year and a 6% increase annually for the remainder of the authorization.”

Forbes gives more detail on what this act entails:

“Why should you care? For one thing, the Older Americans Act’s efforts assist 11 million people each year all around the country, with services ranging from congregate and home-delivered meals to transportation services to elder abuse prevention to part-time employment. For another, the new legislation will provide new initiatives — and continue current ones — helpful to family caregivers, people with early-onset Alzheimer’s and low-income older Americans, among others.”