BAYADA’s Delaware PAC supported ten candidates throughout 2018. The PAC Board chooses candidates from both sides of the aisle that demonstrate awareness and support of home care and our issues. Of the ten candidates, all seven that were up for re-election on November 6 won! The other three will be up for reelection in 2020.
What does this mean? That the DE PAC chooses winners! It also means that none of the key legislators that we identified as home care supporters left office. This is exciting news for DE PAC members that chose to support our champions! Thank you DE PAC members! Below is a list of those we contributed to and their election status.
Rep. David Bentz (D- Christiana) Chair of House Health Committee
Sen. Bryan Townsend (D- Bear, Brookside) Chair of Senate Health Committee
Sen. Ernie Lopez (R- Milton, Rehoboth) Member of Senate Health Committee
Rep. Paul Baumbach (D- Newark) Member of House Health Committee
Rep. Kevin Hensley (R- Middletown) Member of House Health Committee
Rep. Michael Ramone (R- Newark) Member of Joint Finance Committee
Rep. Debra Heffernan (D- Wilmington) Vice Chair of House Health Committee, Member of Joint Finance Committee
Governor John Carney (D)
Up for election in 2020
Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long (D)
Up for election in 2020
Sen. Nicole Poore (D- Bear) Senate Majority Whip, Member of Senate Health Committee, Member of Joint Finance Committee
Up for election in 2020
If you are interested in learning more about the BAYADA PACs, contact me today!
Incumbent Republican Governor Larry Hogan defeated Democratic Candidate Ben Jealous during the November 6 midterm elections, making him the second Republican governor to win a re-election campaign in Maryland history. This rarely seen result—last time being in 1954—may be attributed in part to his commitment to healthcare, which proved to be a national priority across the country.
Last summer, Hogan vocally disapproved of the Graham-Cassidy bill, which proposed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Hogan cited the extreme cost a repeal would have to the state, as well as the threat to coverage such a proposal would have on the 400,000+ Marylanders that have gained access healthcare since the state’s ACA’s expansion. He pushed for bipartisan solutions that would expand access to care while creating a stable market, which resonated with the state’s newly covered population and Marylanders across the board.
This past September, Governor Hogan lowered rates for health insurance premiums through the state’s exchange, which impacts the nearly 200,000 Maryland residents purchase their insurance from the state due to their employers not offering coverage. Hogan also worked with legislators to keep a tax on insurance carriers. The funds from this tax are used to create a pool that insurers can use to cover the most expensive claims.
This coming July, Hogan will become the chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), where he will serve to represent all 50 state governors on a national level, becoming a voice for the Association. With this newly influential role as chair of the NGA, we can hope that his record of support for health care extends to governors’ mansions outside of Maryland.
On September 21, Director of Government Affairs for Maryland and Delaware Shannon Gahs was awarded the Maryland-National Capital Homecare Association (MNCHA) Public Policy Achievement Award for her tireless advocacy efforts on behalf of children and adults with disabilities. She was recognized for her work in helping draft HB 1696, which forces the state to explore access-to-care issues prevalent in Maryland. The bill has been passed and signed by the governor, and a taskforce is currently working towards recommending solutions to the state legislature. Shannon’s work, in collaboration with MNCHA, Delegate Kirill Reznik, and Senator Steve Waugh, was instrumental to this bill’s success. Congratulations to Shannon and our Maryland advocates on this much-deserved recognition!
Curt Knott, Chris Knott, Ali Knott, Kim Hill, Mandy Brady, Shannon Gahs, and Maggie Tracy met with Rep. Kevin Hensley to thank him for his support of home health care.
In both Delaware and Maryland, the legislature is keyed up to see a lot of change in both the leadership of key committees that debate our issues and the rank-and-file membership of those committees. BAYADA, together with our trade associations and other providers, has the potential to use this time of change to educate newly-elected and newly-promoted representatives about the complex and detailed issues within Medicaid reimbursement. The best way we can recruit these leaders to become Champions of Home Health Care is to show it to them in person!
What can You do?
Invite a legislator to your office.
Whether it is for a competency training, an awards ceremony, a community or recruiting event, legislators will understand our complex issues better when they are exposed to it more. Invite them for a lunchtime Town Hall meeting with your office staff, to talk about the issues that affect your work, or ask them to present your next Heroes Award!
Invite a legislator on a Home Visit.
Legislators are happy to meet the people they represent and seeing our clients is sometimes the best way to explain how important home care is to their lives.
Invite candidates or recently-elected legislators to sit in on training.
Whether nurses are gaining new skills or are brushing up on existing ones, showing legislators how much effort we put into training and ensuring the skills of our nurses goes a long way toward helping them understand that home health care encompasses a myriad of different specialties.
These interactions make a huge difference. A legislator in Delaware, someone who has been a supporter of BAYADA for a long time, told us this year that she wants to know more about our day-to-day. She said other groups who are asking for increases in the state budget call her weekly. She and her associates want to hear about new issues, training, community events, staff meetings, awards and current events in our world. Being up to date will help her advocate better for our clients and employees in private negotiations!
Shannon and Maggie are here to help! If you are interested in helping to educate a legislator but need some support in planning or preparing for it, contact us.
The Maryland primary election at the end of June resulted in several big surprises. Longtime senator and well-respected chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Mac Middleton, was ousted by a political unknown, shaking up the establishment and opening the question of who will lead this key committee. The primary defeat of Senator Steve Waugh, a moderate Republican known for thinking logically and building consensus made national news after Governor Larry Hogan came out against him for voting too often with Senate Democrats. When the dust settled, only one of the four major committee chairs in the Senate remained, and only two of the vice chairs. In the House, Delegate Joseph Vallario, a Maryland legend, lost his primary bid, creating a vacancy that had a chain reaction through the leadership as members took on new roles. These changes leave voids in institutional knowledge on the complicated issues that come before legislative committees.
In the Gubernatorial race, Governor Larry Hogan won the Republican primary and former NAACP Chair Ben Jealous was chosen for the Democratic nomination. Jealous has been vocal about bringing a single-payer healthcare system to Maryland, a move that the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services has measured would add $24 billion to state expenses, but would eliminate the $51 billion Marylanders paid in healthcare costs in 2014 (an estimated $65 billion this year). Governor Hogan has been a supporter of stabilizing the ACA insurance market and keeping private coverage premiums down. For a state where healthcare is both a point of pride and a major economic generator, this is sure to be discussed often in the run-up to the election.
Across the state, primary elections re-affirmed the mantra that every vote counts. Results remained too close to call for days after the Baltimore County executive primary showed a win for former state Delegate Johnny Olszewski over state Senator Jim Brochin and County Councilwoman Vicki Almond by only nine votes. After a manual recount, the win was confirmed by a margin of 17 votes (of 84,601 total cast in the race). Legislative primaries across the state had similar results but garnered less attention. See Maryland’s elections website for the full results. If you have any questions about our legislative priorities for Maryland, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Shannon Gahs, Patty Watson, and Ali Knott met with Rep. David Bentz (top right) to thank him for his support of home health care
The Delaware General Assembly typically closes late into the evening on its June 30 deadline, giving the last day of session extra drama, a party for winners and a night of stomach-wrenching stress for those hoping for a last-minute miracle. Typically what keeps them in session is debate over the state’s annual budget. This year, the budget process was different in two ways- first, the state had a surplus of funds because of changes to the federal tax code; second, the budget passed with three days to spare. Most of the $20 million in unexpected funds went to long-overdue pay raises for state employees and teachers. The legislature also passed paid parental leave for state employees, filled open state positions that investigate child abuse and neglect and that staff juvenile detention facilities, and shored up programs that benefit those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and that improve reading and special education. Much of the public debate in Dover this year was around gun rights and legalizing marijuana.
This year, we asked the legislature for a 21 percent increase in the RN and LPN home care reimbursement rates, an ask that would cost the state about $3.1 million annually. BAYADA Delaware leaders and our Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors educated and advocated by giving testimony at a Joint Finance Committee hearing, meeting with legislators and being active on social media campaigns. The legislature, with the stated intent of being economically frugal and with an eye on whether they were constraining future legislatures by increasing recurring expenses, looked more favorably on one-time expenses and grants this year. We did not get the increase. We did, however, build support with many legislators. At the end of session, five legislators committed to meet together in the fall to determine strategy for how to improve rates for nurses who are currently reimbursed at the same levels as they were 13 years ago.
The end of June saw the ends of legislative careers for more than 25 percent of the legislature through retirements and public intentions not to run for re-election. Primary Day for Delaware is September 6. The general election is November 6, 2018. All 41 seats in the House and half of the Senate are on the ballot this year. To learn more about your ballot, your polling place, and other voter information, click here. If you have any questions about this session or our legislative priorities for Delaware, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
During session, Maryland-National Capital Homecare Association selected a new Executive Director. Dawn Seek, LPN, a longtime board member with a career in many aspects of home health care and durable medical equipment, was hired as the association’s sole full-time employee. She met with Dave Totaro and Shannon Gahs from the BAYADA Government Affairs Office (GAO) team last week to discuss her vision for the association and plans to work together in the coming year. Her plans include adding Maryland’s voice to the national conversation of the future of home health care, partnering with other organizations that serve our clients and employees in Maryland, building more substantive committees and planning meetings that have more immediately-actionable information for members.
Election season is officially upon us! The governorship and every seat in the legislature is on the ballot in 2018. Primary Day is on June 26 and the General Election will be November 6. Gov. Hogan, a popular Republican in a traditionally heavily Democratic state, faces an uphill battle. The field for the Democratic nomination currently has eight active candidates. Across the country, a blue wave is expected in November, with many Republicans expected to be unseated by Democrats. Maryland’s legislature currently stands at 123 Democrats to 64 Republicans. But no matter how the votes fall across party lines, the legislature is sure to include a lot of new faces in 2019–nearly 20% of senators have announced they will not run for re-election.
BAYADA’s primary goal this session was to pass legislation requiring the state to evaluate disabled children’s and adults’ access to home health care. We built a coalition, developed a persuasive body of research, and educated key legislators about low Medicaid rates and the desperate need for more LPNs in home care. In the final hour of the year’s legislative session, the bill passed unanimously. We know that disabled children and adults in Maryland are routinely going without the care they need. The task force this bill establishes, and the report that they will publish, will allow us to advocate for greatly increased Medicaid rates in the coming months. This is an important step forward to bring reliable, high quality home healthcare to more Marylanders.
Thank you Delegate Kirill Reznik and Senator Steve Waugh for supporting home care by sponsoring this bill!
In other news:
MINIMUM WAGE- A proposal to increase the state minimum wage to $15 failed. The issue will likely be back for consideration in 2019. A previously-scheduled increase to $10.10 this summer will still occur.
SICK LEAVE- A statewide sick leave mandate passed last session, which Gov. Hogan vetoed. This session, the legislature overrode the veto and put the mandate into effect as of February 11. BAYADA’s LS and POL groups have made sure that BAYADA is in compliance.
HEALTH INSURANCE- In reaction to federal elimination of the individual mandate and some health insurance market funding, the state took steps to stabilize individual marketplace health insurance premium rates and will evaluate proposals to encourage younger, healthier people to buy health insurance.
PRESCRIPTION DRUGS- An effort to prevent price-gouging for prescription drugs failed. A separate bill that allows pharmacists to tell consumers about lower-cost drug options passed.
On February 21, seven BAYADA Home Health Care employees, one of whom is a parent and caregiver of a medically complex child, testified in front of a dozen Delaware state legislators and nearly 80 community members to advocate for a Medicaid reimbursement rate increase for registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs).
The Delaware Joint Finance Committee met to hear the Department of Health and Social Services’ (DHSS) annual budget request in what ended up being a crowded room that drew so many members of the public that overflow seating had to be provided in the cafeteria, where a live video feed of the hearing was streamed. Though a few of these advocates were initially hesitant to speak in front of legislators- let alone such a crowd- what kept them going is their commitment to advocating on behalf of home care nurses, their clients, and their clients’ loved ones.
These advocates’ testimonies detailed their personal stories of why the committee should include additional funds to DHSS’s budget to be used to increase the state’s reimbursement rates for RN and LPN care by about 25%. Delaware’s current rates have not been increased in more than ten years, and these current rates are not adequate to keep up with demand for in-home nursing care because of the pressure that low rates place on providers’ ability to recruit and retain quality nurses. With a rate increase for RN and LPN care, providers would be able to attract more nurses to deliver the in-home care that pediatric, adult, and senior home care clients need.
BAYADA registered nurse Jen Saulsbury shared a moving story about two of her pediatric clients and the impact that nursing turnover rates, which stem from Delaware’s low reimbursement rates, has on them. She shared a crayon-drawn card from one of her pediatric clients to accompany her story, which nearly brought the committee to tears.
Committee co-chair Representative Melanie George-Smith and Senator Nicole Poore vocalized their support of increased reimbursement rates for RN and LPN care. It goes to show that advocacy is a powerful force in creating the changes necessary to support home care employees, clients, and their families.
Advocacy is powerful. The stories that these advocates shared in front of the committee were not those of data, numbers, and dollar signs, but rather their unique, passionate perspectives of why this issue is so important that it deserves legislative attention and action.
Advocacy doesn’t necessarily involve testifying in front of a crowded room. It can be sharing your unique story or picture with us, writing an email to a legislator, or participating in a meeting to talk about issues you face every day. A state-funded nursing rate increase cannot happen without getting other passionate individuals involved. If you would like to find out how you can to advocate for better home care laws and regulations, let’s talk about how you can get involved. Email me today!