Humana is spending $5.7 billion to jump deeper into delivering care at home, a trend that took off during the pandemic and one the health insurer expects will continue to grow.
The insurer said Tuesday that it will buy the rest of Kindred at Home after initially acquiring a 40% stake in the care provider a few years ago.
Kindred at Home sends nurses, physical therapists and other care providers to patients who are deemed homebound by doctors. The company serves more than half a million patients annually.
Humana specializes in Medicare Advantage, the privately run version of the government’s Medicare program for people aged 65 and older and for the disabled. The insurer has seen a jump in care delivered at home since COVID-19 set in last year as patients — especially those with several health problems — tried to avoid the virus.
Humana executives expect that interest in home care to last partly due to the aging U.S. population and because many patients were exposed to that type of care during the pandemic.
“COVID has only really accelerated the interest in providing care in the home,” said Susan Diamond, president of the insurer’s home care business.
Humana says it pairs Kindred’s care with services the insurer provides in an attempt to improve patient health.
The goal is to keep people out of expensive hospitals or prevent return visits. That’s done partly by focusing on issues that aren’t directly related to a patient’s care.
Humana says Kindred’s nurses or therapists, for instance, can determine on a home visit whether a patient has enough healthy food or if there are potential problems like a rug that might pose a tripping hazard.
The insurer can then help fix those issues. Nurses also can check a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy for signs of dehydration and give them fluids and anti-nausea medicine to help prevent a trip to the hospital.
Technology and advances in telemedicine have allowed for more care to be performed at home, which patients often prefer.
“Like telemedicine it seems like one of those things that can be a win-win for patients and insurers,” said Cynthia Cox, a vice president at the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation who studies health care cost and quality.
She noted, though, that there are limits to how much care can be performed at home before quality suffers.
Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana Inc., which reports its first-quarter results Wednesday, expects the Kindred deal to close in the third quarter.