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Infection Control at Home Health Agencies During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19 is especially dangerous for adults aged 65 years and older and those with underlying medical conditions. Medicare beneficiaries receiving home health services may be at a high risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19. Home health services are covered for the elderly and disabled under the Medicare program. Home health services may include skilled nursing care, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and medical supplies. Home health agencies (HHAs) must meet certain requirements to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, including meeting infection prevention and control standards. On March 10, 2020, CMS issued a State Survey Directors Letter, "Guidance for Infection Control and Prevention Concerning Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Home Health Agencies (HHAs)," to provide HHAs with guidance on addressing the outbreak and minimizing transmission. Home health workers often travel to several homes on a weekly basis, which increases their risk of exposure to the COVID-19 and increases the risk of infection among Medicare beneficiaries. HHAs must maintain a coordinated agencywide program for the surveillance, identification, prevention, control, and investigation of infectious and communicable diseases. We will interview corporate officers from the three HHA providers with the largest market share in 2019 as well as HHAs that have recently been cited by CMS for infection control and prevention deficiencies to determine the extent to which their infection control and prevention policy and procedures comply with CMS guidance regarding COVID-19.

Announced or Revised Agency Title Component Report Number(s) Expected Issue Date (FY)
September 2020 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Infection Control at Home Health Agencies During the COVID-19 Pandemic Office of Audit Services W-00-20-35858 2021