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BARBOURSVILLE — With more and more seniors moving away from the long-term care facilities model, preferring instead to remain in their homes and have caregivers visit them on a weekly or daily schedule, the home health care industry is booming.

As the older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate in the United States, and particularly in the Tri-State, those in need of home health care services is rising as well.

“Insurers such as Medicare and Medicaid are investing in home health because they are witnessing the extraordinary cost savings that come along with this kind of care. An everyday caregiver in a person’s home can drastically reduce emergency room visits, hospitalizations and other catastrophic events in the lives of the elderly,” said Jeff Stevens, one of the partners of Village Caregiving, based in Barboursville.

Almost $103 billion was spent on home health care in the United States in 2018, and that number will reach nearly $173 billion by 2026, according to an analysis from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary. The annual growth rate for home health spending is predicted to be 6.7% in 2020, which is higher than any other health care category tracked, according to the report.

“The home health care industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, and especially in West Virginia,” said Matthew Walker, another one of Village Caregiving’s partners. “West Virginians are most comfortable in their homes, and they are proud of their homes.”

More West Virginians own their homes than people in other states, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“When you ask seniors and those with disabilities what is most important to them as they age, they overwhelmingly mention family, friends and the safety and security of aging at home,” Walker said. “Village Caregiving knows this because we speak with our clients every day and understand what makes them happiest and healthiest.”

U.S. home healthcare is evolving into a massive market. The U.S. home healthcare market is projected to grow about 7% annually from $103 billion in 2018 to $173 billion by 2026 — outpacing growth in all other care types, including hospital care (+5.3% annually) and physician services (+5.6% annually).

This all means that Village Caregiving continues to grow and expand its footprint in the Tri-State with new offices and hundreds of new jobs.

“Village Caregiving is prepared for the growth,” Walker said. “We currently employ 450 managers, nurses and caregivers in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. We currently serve 800 families, about half of which are veterans.”

Village Caregiving was started in 2013 by a trio of law school graduates and entrepreneurs with 12 employees.

Andrew Maass, one of the trio, says the growth has been purely organic.

“We reach out to communities, listen to their needs and respond to that feedback,” he said. “Village Caregiving recently began serving the Southern Ohio area, and will be opening an office in Portsmouth, which will serve all counties between Scioto County and the Huntington area. We are also in the process of opening our eighth office in Beckley. We will go wherever we are needed. We pride ourselves in serving rural, underserved people.”

Maass says he and his partners understand that each client will have different and unique needs.

“We tailor our services to the individual client,” he explained. “This is why we match personalities and needs effectively. We want our clients to trust and genuinely like their caregivers.”

Stevens added that Village Caregiving has shown it is different from most in-home care businesses.

“We are not a chain, franchise or big business,” he said. “We are local with deep roots in the community. We are individuals that grew up here, and we are always going to be here. We are part of the communities we serve.”

Maass says Village Caregiving doesn’t do contracts or require patients to commit to a minimum number of hours of home health care services, but instead charges a flat rate of $16 to $17 an hour.

“One of our core principles is to keep rates considerably lower, so we guarantee to have the lowest rates in the area,” Maass said.

Stevens says he is most proud of the amount of money that Village Caregiving saves its clients and families, as well as providing a livable wage for caregivers employed by the company.

A study released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the compound annual growth rate for home health care services from 2014 to 2024 would be nearly 5%, the highest among all industries. That will mean 760,400 new jobs, the report said. For all occupations in the home health care industry, the BLS projected that employment would rise from 1.26 million in 2014 to 2.02 million in 2024.

Maass says the company maintains stringent requirements for their direct care workers.

“Our caregivers are experienced in the in-home care industry. They are bonded and insured, they have passed and remain subject to random drug screens, and they have been screened through criminal background checks and abuse databases,” he said. “We’re constantly looking for the best caregivers in the region and strive to reward them financially for joining our team and their dedication to hard work. We’re also always willing to meet with agencies that may have a desire to exit this line of work. We have found in the past that we’ve been able to propose offers, that are mutually beneficially, that have allowed other owners of non-medical in-home caregiving companies a smooth exit strategy.”

Maass said more than anything, Village Caregiving’s priority is keeping loved ones safe and comfortable at home.

“If we continue to put the needs of the client and employee before the needs of business owners, I’m confident that success will continue to present itself,” he said.

For the past several years, the company has kept to the same common-sense principles it started with, according to Maass.

“We decided that if we’re fair, work hard and are honest, the company would grow,” he said.

In Ashland, the company has gone from 20 clients and five caregivers to around 150 clients and 70 caregivers, said Ben Keenan, one of the partners of the company.

“We have been able to take the same business model to Ashland, and it has been very successful,” Keenan said. “For us to sustain growth, we must continue to strive to execute on our core values: client satisfaction, employee engagement and the use of common-sense principles to problem solve.”

Corey Watson heads up the new location in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

“One of the primary drivers that took us to the Point Pleasant market was to be able to better service the Ohio Medicaid PASSPORT waiver program clients in Gallipolis, Ohio, markets,” Watson said.

During the past several months, the company has quadrupled its number of clients in the PASSPORT waiver program, which allows seniors who require a nursing facility level of care to remain living at home, or the home of a family member, and receive care in those locations.

Village Caregiving now fully participates in the Ohio PASSPORT program, Worker’s Comp. and UMWA benefits. It also accepts private pay, LTC insurance, VA benefits and West Virginia Age and Disable Waiver Program.

“For us, it’s proven valuable not just to say ‘no’ when asked if we participate in a particular program. We want to have a consultative conversation, with a consumer or beneficiary, uncover what programs may be available to them and steer them in the right direction,” Keenan said.

Andy Hess, the executive director of the Southern Ohio branch of Village Caregiving, says they have seen the numbers of their patients double since he started about six months ago.

“The bottom line is that people prefer to be in their homes, and the goal for us is to keep families in their homes,” Hess said.

According to a report from the Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation, a patient’s home is likely to become the center of care delivery over the next few decades.

“Patients want to be home and want to have a better quality of life,” Hess said. “Getting the highest quality in-home care services at the most affordable cost has always been the mission of Village Caregiving to help patients and families to be able to remain at home.”

The home health industry is constantly changing at the federal, state and local levels, and Village Caregiving embraces those changes, Walker added.

“One tremendous opportunity for non-medical home health companies like Village Caregiving is the movement of Medicare Advantage plans toward covering our services,” he said. “Some plans call them ‘personal home helper’ services, focusing on nutrition, transportation, social isolation and home safety. Traditionally, Medicare has not covered our services, but that is changing. Village Caregiving has joined Medicare Advantage networks in several states, and we are taking care of several new clients as we speak. This focus on social determinants of health will certainly lead to improved health outcomes, fewer hospitalizations, and will supplement medical care.”

Village Caregiving now has offices in Barboursville, Charleston, Clarksburg, Point Pleasant and Beckley in West Virginia, in Ashland and Pikeville in Kentucky and in Southern Ohio.

“We appreciate each of these communities welcoming us as a new business and allowing us to earn their trust,” Walker said. “There are challenges and changes on the horizon, but Village Caregiving will meet them all head on.”

For more information about Village Caregiving, call 304-690-4464 or visit www.villagecaregiving.com.

Meanwhile, at Right at Home River Cities in Ceredo, owner Cathy Queen says they are providing caregiving services to approximately 60 seniors.

“We also provide case management services to 450 to 500 Humana members,” Queen said. “Our agency provides services for a variety of different situations and needs, such as homemaking, respite, personal care, transportation, errands, med reminders and socialization services in our Tri-State area. These services can be paid through private pay, long-term insurance, veteran homemaker/respite and veteran aid and attendance benefit, worker’s compensation and auto insurance and case management.”

Queen agrees that facility living can put an undue financial burden on seniors and their families.

“Home care cost is considerably less compared to long-term care facility model,” she said. “Right at Home was founded on the premise that with a little help, most people could lead healthy, happy lives in their own home surrounded by their families and memories.”

They have around 40 caregivers and approximately 30 nurses, Queen said.

“They are our employees, not contractors, who are drug screened, bonded, insured, trained and screened through a nationally known background company,” she said.

Queen says today’s trends in health care are able to keep people healthier, so services like those offered by Right at Home will continue to rise to care for the rising number of the senior population.

“We are the right people, doing the right things, the right way for the right reason here at Right at Home River Cities,” she said. “Our mission is improving the quality of life for those we serve by providing the best possible experience and peace of mind. Our dedication has earned us the Best of Homecare awards for provider of choice and Employer of choice for three years.”

For more information about Right at Home River Cities, call 304-453-4663 or visit www.rahrivercities.com.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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