Senior care association LeadingAge has completed its affiliation with the Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) and its offshoot organization, ElevatingHOME. This move expands LeadingAge’s reach into the home health and hospice sectors.
The groups announced their intent to merge in Feb 2019. In the interim the organizations have undergone a transition period in which they prepared to unify, according to LeadingAge’s president and CEO, Katie Smith Sloan.
“LeadingAge’s focus has been on people as they age, and we all fit in that category,” said Smith Sloan. “We are operating as one organization, now with a combined mission, combined membership and combined membership benefits, and we’ll do that going forward and continue to build on that.”
Washington, D.C.-based LeadingAge has more than 5,000 members in senior services industries in its fold, including hospice and home health providers from across the country. The affiliation with VNAA adds more than 50 members providing home health, hospice and visiting nurse services, increasing the combined organization’s reach by thousands of beneficiaries nationwide. VNAA and ElevatingHOME will be rebranding as LeadingAge in the near future.
Behind only AARP in scale when it comes to tackling aging issues in the United States, LeadingAge stands to become an even bigger player in the home-based and hospice care arenas. VNAA Board Chair Kate Rolf, president and CEO of Nascentia Health in Syracuse, N.Y., told Hospice News’ sister publication Home Health Care News that the affiliation with LeadingAge opens the door to further educational, research and advocacy resources for VNAA and ElevatingHOME’s combined membership base.
For LeadingAge, the move strategically adds more clinical expertise to its toolbag while also presenting tremendous opportunity. As Smith Sloan told Hospice News, the affiliation will allow LeadingAge to look at ways to create more partnerships at the community level between home health organizations and residentially-based organizations, including hospices.
“Our vision has always been to integrate services at the community level so that older people can access the services they need where they want them in a place that they call home,” said Smith Sloan. “We were seeing the opportunity for some of those partnerships to happen.”
According to Smith Sloan, LeadingAge saw “strong market demand” of home- and community-based services for older adults even before the pandemic hit, with anticipation of more growth and transformation in coming years.
Rolf, along with VNAA board member Joseph Scopelliti, president and CEO of VNA Health System in Shamokin, P.A., stated that VNAA members will benefit greatly from LeadingAge’s expertise. Rolf and Scopelliti will continue to serve on the board of directors for LeadingAge to ensure a voice and representation in governance discussions, according to Smith Sloan.
“LeadingAge has been a great partner,” said Rolf and Scopelliti in a statement. “They are tenacious advocates for the interests of home health and hospice organizations, and bring a unique focus on the continuum of services and supports.”
Alongside its members and 38 state partners, LeadingAge addresses critical issues impacting the hospice space by blending applied research, advocacy, education and community-building. While these efforts were building prior to the coronavirus pandemic’s onset, they have become more relevant as COVID-19 continues to spread and impact the delivery of health care.
VNAA and ElevatingHOME joined LeadingAge in advocating for the COVID-19 Hospice Respite Care Act of 2020 introduced by Reps. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) and Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) for consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation is aimed at providing much-needed, critical support to older adults and their caregivers during the pandemic.
If enacted, the bill would allow hospice patients to receive respite care in their homes as opposed to inpatient facilities, nursing homes or hospitals, settings that have been closed with limited access to patients for these providers throughout the outbreak. Respite is one of four levels of hospice care that Medicare covers, intended to provide a break for family caregivers or allow them to attend to other priorities. The other three levels of care are routine home care, continuous home care and general inpatient care.
“A lot of what we do is trying to raise the profile of hospice and home health, because they are often overlooked as a key parts of the continuum of services and not well understood,” said Smith Sloan. “What we’ve been trying to do is to make thinking about home health and hospice as part of the way we serve people who have needs as a kind of normative.”
In addition to expanded reach in both services and advocacy efforts, LeadingAges’ focus on developing technology services for older adults was another pull drawing VNAA’s interest, according to Smith Sloan. The association’s Center for Aging Services Technology focuses on research, developments and provides consulting to providers on technology investments, including evolving telehealth updates growing with tremendous relevance to home health and hospice providers in recent years and increasing during COVID-19.
Another draw for VNAA and ElevatingHOME was LeadingAge’s focus on the Center for Managed Care Solutions and Innovation and their experience in looking at alternative payment models.
“There’s a lot of interest in the home health and hospice worlds in how managed care can work well for them, whether it’s Medicare Advantage plans, or whether it’s more traditional managed care,” Smith Sloan told Hospice News. “That is an area where we have some solid expertise that will be of tremendous value to these organizations around the country.”