Five tips for choosing a home health care agency

(ARA) – Recovering from an illness or injury can be easier with home health care, which provides you with a wide range of services to help you recover in the comfort of your home. Home health care helps you get better, regain your independence and become as self-sufficient as possible.

There are differences in how home health agencies operate and the services they provide. It is important to consider the quality of care you will receive and choose a provider that is best suited to the specific kind and amount of care you need.

Here are five tips for choosing the home health care agency that is right for you or your loved one:

Talk to your doctor

If your doctor or referring health care provider decides you need home health care, he or she should give you a list of agencies that serve your area. Make sure you ask for a list that only includes home health agencies that are Medicare-certified, which means that they meet certain federal health and safety requirements. You can also ask a hospital discharge planner, social worker or your friends and family for supplemental opinions on care options.

Research your options

Using the list provided by your doctor, visit Medicare’s Home Health Compare website at to find out more about each agency. Home Health Compare gives information such as the provider’s initial date of Medicare certification and the services they offer, such as: nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, medical social services and home health aide services.

Compare quality of care

In order to find a home health agency that best meets your needs, it’s important to compare the quality of care of several agencies. Home Health Compare shows how often each agency used best practices when caring for its patients, whether patients improved in certain important areas of care, and what other patients said about their recent home health care experience. Home Health Compare uses quality measures that can help you decide on the agency that is right for you.

These indicators are used to report on how well agencies are doing in the following areas:

* Manage daily activities

* Manage pain and treatment symptoms

* Treat wounds and prevent pressure sores

* Prevent harm

* Prevent unplanned hospital care

Home Health Compare also lets you compare local agencies to state and national average scores.

Consider your needs

One home health agency might meet your needs better than another in terms of the services offered. For example, if you had hip surgery, you may need an agency that offers skilled nursing care and physical therapy. Home Health Compare provides a Home Health Agency Checklist that allows you to look closely at each agency you are considering and choose the one that best meets all of your needs.

See if you qualify for Medicare coverage

Medicare and other health insurance plans have specific requirements in covering home health care. Medicare Advantage and other health insurance plans may also require that you get home health services from agencies they contract with. View Medicare’s “Medicare and Home Health Care” publication to learn about home health care coverage, or call your plan for more information.

Medicare covers home health care that is medically necessary for a skilled need. Also, Medicare covers care that is provided only on a part time, intermittent basis. Medicare does not cover full days of care or care provided for an indefinite period. It is important to note that some home health agencies offer services that aren’t covered by Medicare. Ask about services that you may want to purchase.

Home health care may not be right for everyone. To evaluate other long-term home care options, visit Medicare’s “Alternatives to Nursing Homes” publication.

All the resources mentioned above can be found at or by calling 800-MEDICARE (TTY 877-486-2048). To objectively compare other types of health care providers such as hospitals or nursing homes, visit