At 79 deals and counting through November, home health and hospice mergers-and-acquisitions activity for 2019 is poised to exceed the previous year.

That’s according to newly released data from Norwalk, Connecticut-based Irving Levin Associates. Founded in 1948, the firm provides market intelligence to health care professionals and senior care providers.

Overall, 2018 saw 85 total home health and hospice transactions.

Although, home health agencies make up the majority of M&A transactions — with 72% in both 2015 and 2016 — hospice is gaining traction. The hospice market saw an uptick in investor interest this year, accounting for 38% of deals through the end of November 2019, according to Irving Levin data.

With the home health industry on the verge of a massive payment overhaul, the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM), the hospice market benefited from a relatively stable regulatory environment.

“All were more bullish on hospice companies, based on the significantly more positive reimbursement environment, with Medicare Advantage plans set to roll out hospice benefits beginning in 2021, and the uncertainty currently playing out on the home health side before the Jan. 1, 2020, launch of [PDGM],” Lisa Phillips, editorial director at Irving Levin Associates, wrote in a recent report highlighting the data.

One recent example of hospice M&A action: Charleston, South Carolina-based Heart of Hospice LLC, a subsidiary of Evening Post Industries (EPI) Group, acquired Heartstrings Hospice this week.

Additionally, Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) entered a definitive agreement to acquire Asana Hospice, a hospice provider with locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas and Texas, in November.

On the home health front, LHC Group (Nasdaq: LHCG) — along with Texas Health Resources and Methodist Health System — recently agreed to purchase and share ownership of Healthcare Resources, an Arlington, Texas-based home health provider.

In one of the biggest deals of the year, Encompass Health Corporation (NYSE: EHC) agreed to acquire the assets of Birmingham, Alabama-based Alacare Home Health & Hospice for $217.5 million in April.

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