Amedisys Having ‘Significant Conversations’ with Prospective Palliative Care Partners

As Amedisys Inc. (NASDAQ: AMED) Chairman Paul Kusserow rejoins the C-suite as CEO, his list of priorities includes increasing clinician retention rates, leveraging innovation arm Contessa and returning to some degree of earnings predictability.

Kusserow — who holds a reputation as a successful turnaround executive — held the Amedisys CEO role from 2014 until early 2022. During that time, he helped spearhead the company’s aggressive hospice expansion, epitomized by the industry-shaping acquisitions of Compassionate Care Hospice, AseraCare and other businesses.

That roughly eight-year stretch as CEO was likewise marked by the purchase of Contessa, a company built to shift higher-acuity care into the home, including palliative care services.


“We think it’s transformative,” Kusserow said Tuesday at the Bank of America Securities Home Care Conference, referring to Contessa.

After previously leading Amedisys’ turnaround, Kusserow is once again being asked to bring stabilization, growth and profitability to the hospice, home health and personal care giant as CEO. The company announced it was parting ways with Kusserow’s replacement, former COO Chris Gerard, in November.

The leadership change, at least in part, was due to the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Amedisys underachieving Wall Street expectations throughout much of 2022.


“We haven’t hit and been predictable on the earnings,” Kusserow said Tuesday. “So that’s the reason I’m back.”

On the labor front, Kusserow and other Amedisys leaders believe that the recession will prompt some nurses to return to the workforce. While that happens, the company will continue to make staffing investments, with flexible scheduling, robust training opportunities and compensation viewed as key retention drivers.

Amedisys has additionally invested in advanced analytics tools designed to better predict turnover, such as connectRN.

“I think more than anybody, we’ve spent a lot of time understanding our workforce, understanding the nursing workforce, understanding our caregivers, what they need and what they do,” Kusserow continued. “And so we’re focused very much on making sure that we are the best [employer] out there.”

As of early December, Amedisys had about 21,000 employees working across 547 care centers in 36 states, plus the District of Columbia. Staffing constraints have specifically had a drag on the company’s hospice growth of late, with Amedisys reporting only a 1% increase in same-store admissions during Q3 with a 1% decline in average daily census.

“When we have a stable workforce, what we see is we have higher productivity, we have better outcomes, and we have better margin and EBITDA,” Kusserow added.

“Proving out” Contessa is another major focus for Kusserow, he explained during the conference. Amedisys purchased Contessa for $250 million last year, with several new joint-venture partnerships jumping on the Contessa bandwagon since.

While Contessa helps its partners establish and pay for hospital-at-home programs and initiatives that shift skilled nursing facility (SNF) care into the home, it has found significant appetite in palliative care, Contessa leaders have previously told Hospice News.

Palliative care partners include Mount Sinai, Baylor Scott & White and Henry Ford Health System.

“There’s a lot of depth in what we can do there,” Kusserow said. “We have some palliative programs that … we have going in three places. We have some significant conversations on palliative at other places.”

Outside of hospice and palliative care, Amedisys is focused on being strategic with its home health clinical resources, in terms of fee-for-service business versus managed care. The company is reaching a point where it can no longer accept underwhelming Medicare Advantage contracts or delayed payments.

That’s not just a paradigm shift for Amedisys, but for the home health industry as large, according to Kusserow. Traditionally, home health providers have been seen as commodities by payers, he noted.

“We’re going to move from a commoditized market to one that is capacity constrained,” Kusserow said. “And so we need to take advantage of that dynamic.”

If Amedisys is able to execute on these and other strategic priorities, it should see its financial results improve moving into 2023, according to the chairman and CEO.

“There’s no reason with these initiatives that we should not deliver on our numbers — and beat our numbers,” he said.