Authors Posts by Melissa Dehoff

Melissa Dehoff

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Melissa Dehoff is responsible for all medical rehabilitation and brain injury service issues. Ms. Dehoff attends multiple state-level meetings to advocate on behalf of members on brain injury and rehabilitation issues and is a member of the Department of Health Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Board.

Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), Bureau of Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration, and Outreach reached out to RCPA to share information with members about PA VETCONNECT, which is an exciting new regional outreach initiative. Members can assist with this program by sharing resources and/or services that can assist a veteran in need.

Pennsylvania is home to nearly 800,000 veterans – the fourth largest veteran population in the nation. The DMVA recognizes that they are only one player of a vast network of organizations that are necessary to successfully serve these veterans. While DMVA – through its Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) – provides a number of programs and benefits for veterans, there are still areas for which they do not have formal programs such as unemployment, homelessness, mental health issues, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injury (TBI). DMVA hopes to address these gaps through creative inter-agency coordination and community partnerships.

The first phase of PA VETCONNECT encompasses a three-and-a-half-year rollout that began in December of 2018. During the first six months of this phase the concept was developed, requirements were documented, vision & mission statements were defined, initial stakeholders were identified, a focus group was engaged, and regions were established across the Commonwealth. DMVA-OVA looked at current processes to determine the most economical approach to accomplish this goal. To that end, three employee positions were repurposed and/or roles were redefined to administer and implement PA VETCONNECT.

By dividing the Commonwealth into five regions, DMVA will be better able to identify and create partnerships with local community resources and providers that can serve veterans and their families. This includes resources that are not traditionally thought of as veterans’ services or programs. Once identified, the information on the service provider can be entered into a resource database that will be made available to County Directors of Veterans’ Affairs, Veteran Service Officers & Specialists, and any other veterans’ advocates for quick and easy reference.

DMVA-OVA further scrutinized its business plan and found cost saving measures to make several operational functions run more efficiently. The monies realized from the noted cost savings measures, as well as small cuts in other areas, created enough funding to support the hiring of the first five regional personnel for fiscal year 2019/2020. Moreover, DMVA will look at existing department owned facilities or partnerships with sister agencies to house regional personnel so as not to incur additional facility expenses.

Regional Program Outreach Coordinators (RPOCs) will be the “boots on the ground” individuals who will support the outreach team throughout the region, and establish and maintain working relationships with community leaders and local/regional organizations, Veteran Service Organizations, local/county/state government agencies, and other community partners, to gather information and identify resources to facilitate the delivery of services to veterans and their beneficiaries.

One of the elements of this project is a unique Information and Referral (I&R) database that provides those who serve veterans with the names, contact information, and basic overview of organizations that have resources to address veteran-specific needs. This database will eventually contain thousands of organizations throughout the Commonwealth that have the resources to assist veterans’ needs. With a county system already staffed by County Directors of Veterans Affairs, and a vast network of nonprofit organizations at their disposal, this I&R database will have the flexibility to connect veterans, service members, and their dependents to the programs and services they need regardless of the municipality, county, or region where they reside. Through this tool, advocates can more easily assist veterans in locating organizations or resources throughout the state that offer programs and services geared to their specific needs (Note: It is not the intent that advocates would simply hand the veteran or family member a printout of available resources. They believe the best practice would include working with the veteran or family member to find the appropriate resource or service by contacting the service provider, setting up appointments, arranging transportation, etc.).

The DMVA realizes that there is no way a program of this magnitude can be successful without the cooperation of our community partners, especially those who are on the ground level and work every day to improve the lives of veterans. The information and referral tool will roll out in phases, with the first quarter of 2020 targeted for a full statewide rollout.

Members can further assist in this project by completing the Resource Application to self-report. Members should note that the service provided need not consist of veteran-specific assistance or services; you would just need to provide services a veteran might need. Contact Melissa Dehoff, RCPA Rehabilitation Services Director, with questions.

Senior woman with her caregiver at home

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) recently announced a fourteen-county expansion of the Living Independence For the Elderly (LIFE) program. LIFE is a long-term care program that assists seniors with living independently in their homes, while receiving services and supports that meet their health and personal needs. LIFE is one of the Commonwealth’s home and community-based services (HCBS) options that currently serves over 7,000 individuals.

The LIFE program was implemented initially in 1998, and is known in other states across the nation as the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). In order to be eligible for the LIFE program, an individual must be 55 or older, meet the level of care for a skilled nursing facility or special rehabilitation facility, and be able to be safely served in the community.

Through this expansion, LIFE programs will be established in the following counties: Bradford, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clearfield, Elk, Fulton, Jefferson, Monroe, Potter, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, and Wayne. Contact Melissa Dehoff, RCPA Rehabilitation Services Director, with questions.

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a final rule in the September 30, 2019 Federal Register that revises requirements for discharge planning for inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, hospitals (including acute, children’s, long term acute care, and critical access), and home health agencies. Each of these facilities must meet these requirements as a condition to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. In addition to this final rule requiring the discharge planning process to focus on the patient’s goals of care and treatment preferences, it also empowers patients to make informed decisions about their care as they are discharged from acute care to post-acute care (PAC).

The final rule includes a new requirement that sends necessary medical information to the receiving facility or appropriate PAC provider after a patient is discharged from the hospital or transferred to another PAC provider. In addition, hospitals must ensure and support patients’ rights to access their medical records in the form and format requested by the patient.

These regulations are effective on November 29, 2019. Contact RCPA Rehabilitation Services Director Melissa Dehoff with questions.

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During the September 5–6, 2019 Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) public meeting, the agenda included a presentation that focused on a value incentive program (VIP) for post-acute care (PAC) providers. During the presentation, MedPAC reviewed their intention to develop this PAC-VIP over the coming months, which will tie providers’ payments under a unified PAC prospective payment system (PPS) to their performance on uniform cross-setting metrics. MedPAC feels PAC-VIP is essential to incentivize provider improvement. Some of the proposed measures to be included:

  • All-condition hospitalization within the PAC stay;
  • Successful discharge to the community; and
  • Medicare-spending per beneficiary (MSPB).

Performance will be scored using absolute, prospectively set targets, and a five percent withhold will fund the incentive payments, which is consistent with Medicare’s existing value-based programs. In addition, because there is variation in performance across settings, there will be an initial need to score within each setting.

Next steps include modeling the PAC-VIP based on the Commission’s feedback and presenting their results in the spring. MedPAC also seeks feedback on the design of the PAC-VIP, such as measure set, scoring methodology, and size of the withhold. Contact RCPA Director of Rehabilitation Services, Melissa Dehoff, with questions.

The Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) will conduct the next Community HealthChoices (CHC) Third Thursday webinar on September 19, 2019 at 1:30 pm. During this webinar, OLTL’s Deputy Secretary, Kevin Hancock, will provide updates on the CHC program. Registration is required to participate in the webinar. Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Reminder: All CHC related information can be found here. Comments can be submitted electronically via email. If you have any questions, please contact the OLTL Bureau of Policy Development and Communications Management at 717-857-3280.

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In preparation for the roll-out of Phase III of Community HealthChoices (CHC), it was announced today that registration is now open for the upcoming Fall Educational Provider Sessions for the regions in Phase III. The locations for each region are included on the registration form.

The agenda for each session includes:

  • Registration: 8:30 am – 9:30 am
  • CHC Overview Presentation: 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
  • Lunch/MCO Meet and Greet: 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
  • Breakout sessions: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm

Leading up to the summits, emails will be sent to attendees regarding schedule, parking, and event location on each campus. If you encounter problems with registering, please notify this email with your necessary information, and they can register on your behalf.

Questions about CHC? The CHC Questions and Answers Document can be found on both the Participant and Provider sections of the CHC website.

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Beginning today, an update has been made to the Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) application process completed by the Pennsylvania Independent Enrollment Broker (IEB) that will include the IEB scheduling the Intake Visit Assessment (IVA) as the first step of the enrollment process.

As a result of this update, the following changes will take place:

  • Upon initial contact with the applicant, the PA IEB will schedule an in-home visit, which includes an IVA within seven days, unless otherwise requested by the applicant.
  • The HCBS application will start on the day of the in-home visit, or upon receipt of a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Application for Social Services (COMPASS) application, whichever occurs first.
  • At the in-home visit, the PA IEB will:
  • Review the enrollment process and give the applicant and others present at the IVA an overview of what they can expect;
  • Assist the applicant with completing the HCBS application and collecting all supporting documents available at the time of the IVA;
  • Answer questions and assist with HCBS information and choice counseling to make their Managed Care Organization (MCO) selection.

The goal of this change is to alleviate some challenges applicants encounter while trying to navigate the eligibility and enrollment process. Questions regarding this update should be directed to the Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) Participant Enrollment Unit at 800-757-5042 or by email.

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced the availability of a revised inpatient rehabilitation facility prospective payment system (IRF PPS) Medicare Learning Network (MLN) booklet. Topics in the booklet include: IRF PPS Elements (including rates, classification criterion, compliance percentage, and reasonable and necessary criteria); payment updates; IRF quality reporting program (QRP) measures for annual payment update; and many resources.

Included in the August 24, 2019 Pennsylvania Bulletin was a notice from the Department of Human Services (DHS) about a change in the fee schedule rates for Personal Assistance Services (PAS) procedure codes (W1793, W1793TT, W1792, and W1792TU), and for Residential Habilitation procedure codes W0100 and W0102 in the Medical Assistance OBRA Waiver. The changes in the fee schedule rates for these services will be effective on January 1, 2020.

The existing fee schedule rates for PAS (Agency) and PAS (CSLA), procedure codes W1793 and W1793 TT, are increased by 2%. The intent of the increase is to provide for a wage increase for direct care workers providing agency-directed personal assistance services. DHS is also increasing the PAS (Consumer) and PAS (Consumer Overtime) rates, procedure codes W1792, and W1792 TU, to maintain equity in all the PAS rates in the OBRA waiver.

In addition, the existing fee schedule rates for Residential Habilitation procedure codes W0100 and W0102 are increased to include a 3 percent vacancy factor. A vacancy factor had not previously been included in the rate methodology; however, the Department recognizes that providers may not always deliver services to participants at full capacity. Therefore, a 3 percent vacancy factor will be applied to adjust the rates to account for the days the residential provider did not provide services to the participant. The provider cannot bill for days the participant did not receive services, but rather is paid a higher rate for days the participant received services. A vacancy factor of 3 percent was applied to reflect payment to providers for an average number of vacant days.

The fee schedule rates are available in the notice. Written comments regarding these fee schedule rates will be accepted through close of business on Monday, September 23, 2019 and should be sent to the Department of Human Services, Office of Long-Term Living, Bureau of Policy Development and Communications Management, Attention: Marilyn Yocum, PO Box 8025, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8025. Comments may also be submitted to the Department via email. Comments received within 30 days will be considered in subsequent revisions to the fee schedule.