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Proposed State Health Regulation Could Disrupt Home Health Agency Sale

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Proposed State Health Regulation Could Disrupt Home Health Agency Sale

Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Legislature Chair Martha Robertson and County Administrator Joe Mareane told legislators they are deeply concerned about a proposed "emergency" State Department of Health regulation intended to fast-track the entry of new Certified Home Health Agencies (CHHAs) in counties with fewer than two private such agencies. The regulation, to be voted on by the DOH Public Health and Health Planning Council on Thursday, December 8, would eliminate the Certificate of Need process and would enable private agencies to apply for a license to establish an agency in a county by paying a $2,000 fee to New York State.

The change would destabilize the County's pending sale of its Certified Home Health Agency to HCR, whose offer to buy the Agency for $850,000 the Legislature accepted earlier this year after a careful year-long deliberation process, as the County wanted to make sure it transferred its county-owned agency to one that would preserve quality care for clients. The County learned of the proposed change just three weeks ago.

"This, in one fell swoop, will eliminate the value of our license," said Chair Robertson, expressing outrage that the radical change is being pushed through with very little forethought, no opportunity for public and county input, and no attention to the fiscal impact on counties or on the quality of care.

Calling it "a very serious issue" affecting the home health delivery system, Administrator Mareane noted that at least seven other upstate counties, in the process of divesting of their CHHAs would also be affected--'a statewide impact estimated at up to $10 million--' as would other small upstate counties with fewer than two private CHHAs . Mareane said Tompkins today registered its strong opposition to the proposed regulation, on behalf of itself and seven other counties, by the letter to Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy, other members of the Cuomo administration, DOH officials, and the County's legislative delegation.

The proposal is also opposed by the Home Care Association of New York, which notes, "DOH's proposal effectively guts the public need process for CHHA establishment, allowing a bypass of public need for certain ostensibly facilitate patient enrollment into managed care plans or for...purposes of access."

Mareane said the change would have no effect on the county's 2012 budget since the budget does not presume any sales proceeds, unlike in many other counties.