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How to navigate coordination of care
by Rich Keller

A 72-year-old woman is eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. She is currently receiving in-home care and has started exhibiting symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Her symptoms continually get worse, and she is taken to the emergency room with abdominal pain and confusion all while becoming physically weaker. After a short stay in the hospital, she was discharged and recommended home health for physical and occupational therapy to regain her strength. Her home health caregiver is new and does not know her history with homecare. Her former in-home caregiver is unaware of the recent hospital stay and additional services needed. These homecare and home health services may not be happening at the same time due to insurance. What important health needs and information are slipping through the cracks?

But what if the symptoms of her UTI were caught and addressed sooner and a home health episode had been implemented to maintain her physical strength? She could have avoided the ER and a stay in the hospital. What if she could maintain the same caregivers who know her and her needs? Is there a way for all of these needs to be addressed seamlessly while avoiding the ER visit and maintaining continuity of care?

These types of scenarios happen every day for individuals in our community. How do we successfully move these people through the continuum of care without losing consistency?

The Intersection of Medicare & Medicaid for Dual Eligibles

As if the American health care landscape was not complex enough, a population representing particularly unique health care needs, and desperately in need of unique solutions to meet them, is growing: dual eligibles.

Dually eligible beneficiaries are generally described as low-income beneficiaries enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid. While Medicare is a federal program available to eligible citizens and legal residents once they reach 65 or are disabled, Medicaid is administered at the state level and funded jointly by the federal government and the state. Medicaid is available to low-income individuals with a demonstrated need, regardless of age. Medicare pays first when a dual eligible receives Medicare-covered services, and Medicaid pays last, after Medicare and any other health insurance. The impact here is not marginal.

As a general rule, Medicare does not pay for custodial care if it is the only care you need. That is, if you need assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, etc., Medicaid will pay for these services if you are eligible and in accordance with state-specific programs. Medicare pays for acute care needs. This includes nursing and therapy needed to recover from an illness or hospitalization. The handoff, or rather a lack of one, between these two services is a perfect example of how our health care delivery system fails to coordinate care and why the issue is particularly acute for dual-eligible individuals.

Coordinating Care for Dual-Eligible Clients

Recognizing the need to solve this lack of coordinated care for the dually eligible population is not new. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act made it a requirement that certain Medicare Advantage plans (those that focus specifically on the dually eligible) contract directly with state Medicaid agencies so that they can, among other things, coordinate care. That was more than 13 years ago. Except for instances where states have implemented fully integrated Medicare/Medicaid health plans, that coordination is limited at best. And even where fully integrated Medicare/Medicaid plans have been implemented, only around 7% of the people who qualify have enrolled in them.

The challenge to solve for this is only growing. The number of dual eligibles is on the rise. They now include more than 12 million Americans, or approximately 3% of the US population. Factor in the fact that the number of people over 65 will be around 100 million by 2060, and the potential for a genuine crisis becomes apparent.

Missed opportunities to coordinate care can result in health care complications for anyone. Not only is that risk amplified for dually eligible individuals because of their higher health risk to begin with, but also the dual payment system between Medicaid and Medicare increases the likelihood that opportunities to coordinate care are missed. As a result, dually eligible individuals are three times more likely than non-duals enrolled in Medicare to need assistance with activities of daily living and four times more likely to be food insecure. They are two times more likely to use the emergency room and need home health services, and one-and-a-half times more likely to be hospitalized. This results in worse health outcomes, increased difficulty in accessing care and higher overall spending.

Improving how we coordinate care offers benefits that include improved health care outcomes, reduced costs for both programs, higher client satisfaction and consistency of care. It enhances communication across various health care settings and not only addresses immediate medical issues but broader societal factors that impact an individual’s health.

At PurposeCare, we work to offer a solution to the challenges faced by dual-eligible clients by emphasizing the importance of coordinating care. Integrating coordinated homecare and home health care services enhances the quality of life for a health care population that has been neglected or offered services and benefits that are relatively inaccessible in the most practical sense. An approach that coordinates and delivers the most impactful services ensures that dual eligibles and their families seamlessly transition through different levels of care.

Caregivers are trained to spot changes in the condition of their clients and refer them internally to the nursing team to ensure timely intervention and triage and, where appropriate, assess for home health care. We do this by recognizing and making use of arguably one of the most under-appreciated and under-utilized resources in our health care delivery system—the caregiver. That can be a home health aide or personal care aide; it can also be a family member. Educating, supporting and empowering the caregiver to identify changes in condition as soon as they observe them and providing them with the support to coordinate care helps to reduce the total cost of care, increase the quality of that care and certainly the satisfaction of our clients. When our clients do require skilled nursing or therapy in the home, we are able to keep their care within the PurposeCare team and maintain continuity of care and consistency with caregivers which results in more positive outcomes.

Targeted support for dual eligibles addresses a crucial gap in the current health care system. By concentrating on a coordinated homecare strategy, PurposeCare is continually refining and expanding services that increase visibility into an inefficient and unhealthy status quo for vulnerable populations. Simultaneously, it increases access to the full range of care and services that dual eligibles require and deserve.

Rich Keller, MBA, is a health care leader with more than 20 years of experience leading large organizations. Established in December 2021, PurposeCare offers comprehensive services including homecare and home health throughout the Midwest carefully coordinated to keep clients healthy and safe at home. With excellent caregivers, innovative technology and family care navigation PurposeCare ensures that our most vulnerable are provided with the support necessary to live full lives in their community.

Before joining PurposeCare, Keller previously served as the President of All Metro Health Care as a member of the Simplura executive leadership team where he drove platform growth from $272 million to $530 million and increased the footprint of the system from four states to seven. Prior to All Metro, Keller held the market development and VP of government programs roles at 3M and Treo, respectively, where he was responsible for partnering with payers in developing analytics and payment models to improve value-based care and total care quality. He has also served as regional chief operations officer with WellCare Health Plans. Visit