Nonreimbursed Home Health Care: Beyond the Bills


  • This study was funded by grant no. ROI-HSO5513 from the National Center for Health Services Research.

Address correspondence to Elayne Kornblatt Phillips, University of Virginia, McLeod Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903.


The unprecedented growth in the home care industry over the past decade has produced a highly competitive environment for care delivery. To survive, most agencies are implementing strategies to maximize reimbursable care. This focus, while likely to improve an agency's financial situation, is fraught with potential problems. Reimbursed care represents only a small portion of the care that is required and delivered. Still, aside from anecdotes, little reporting has been done to document such additional service, much less to consider the consequences of reducing or deleting it. We selected a sample of 350 public health home care episodes throughout Virginia, and reviewed billing records to determine the number of billed home visits attached to them. We then reviewed home health records for the matching episodes and recorded all visits and other care-related activities (e.g., telephone calls, conferences, laboratory trips). Total home visits increased, with an average of 1.5 unbilled home visits per episode. In addition, 10 additional care-related activities take place per patient, none of which is billed. These findings represent one of the first attempts to quantify the amounts and types of nonbilled care delivered by nurses. This care consumes significant nursing resources and, as a result, may be destined to be reduced or totally eliminated.