Maryland Ambassadors Teach Legislators About Home Health Care Through Visits

Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, MD Government Affairs (GAO)

Hearts for Home Care ambassadors have been active recently, building relationships with legislators in the “interim,” while the legislature is out of session.  Director of BAL Matt Paske and I have met with Delegate Jay Jalisi, Delegate Antonio Hayes, and Delegate Ben Brooks in their offices.  Director of HFV Michele Heasley, the HFV staff and I introduced Senator Bob Cassilly’s aide to the daughter of a client in their office.  Speaking with legislators when they have more time available allows for more in-depth conversations that help legislators understand home health care and become champions on the issues that matter to our clients and employees.

Delaware Joint Finance Committee Begins Budget Debate

Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, DE Government Affairs (GAO)

After months of hearing from state departments and constituents about the issues that matter to them, the 12-member Joint Finance Committee begins debate, called “markup,” over the state budget.  Governor John Carney’s proposed budget announced earlier this year balanced on a $200M increase in tax revenue and $200M in cuts to state programs.  The legislature is discussing a plan that would increase taxes by $100M, requiring more cuts to balance.

Two Legislative Visits Build Champions in MD

Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, MD Government Affairs (GAO)

Photo: Matt Paske, Delegate Brooks, and Shannon Gahs

Baltimore, MD (BAL) assistive care Associate Director Matt Paske and I visited two delegates this week: Delegate Benjamin Brooks and Delegate Antonio Hayes. We shared information with both men about the extent of care that can be given at home and the types of clients we serve. Both delegates are interested to learn more and continue the conversation during a home visit with one of our clients in their districts. District office visits and home visits are two of the key ways BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office (GAO) helps legislators learn about home health care.

Government Affairs Maryland Office Tour Shares Information and Finds Outpouring of Interest

Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, MD Government Affairs (GAO)

Last week, Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro, the newest member of the Government Affairs Team Grassroots Advocacy Manager Mike Sokoloski, and I went on a tour of every service office in the state.  We discussed current events in federal and state politics and shared how BAYADA has impacted policy decisions while getting to know the dedicated employees we have across the state.  We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and interest employees had in getting involved as ambassadors.  For more information on advocating for our clients and employees, reach out to Mike or me!

DE Governor’s Commission Committee Sets Agenda to Build Access to Quality Home Health Care

Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, DE Government Affairs (GAO)

The Governor’s Commission on Building Access to Community-based Services, Health Committee, determined its new agenda last week.  With support of representatives from Family Voices and Family SHADE, the committee will work on ensuring that all Delawareans eligible for community-based services know what they qualify for and how to access care.  At the suggestion of a representative from Nemours A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children and me, the committee will also be working to ensure that all Delawareans, especially children, have access to quality home health care.

Maryland’s 2017 Legislative Session Now Closed

Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, MD Government Affairs (GAO)

Wrapping up on April 10, the General Assembly considered 2,876 bills and resolutions over the 90-day session.  Of those, 940 bills and resolutions passed.   I am preparing a full session report but, of note, the bill containing our offices’ ability to accept orders from physicians in neighboring states passed and will become law as soon as Governor Larry Hogan signs it.  The budget passed nearly two weeks before it was due, including a 2% increase in Medicaid home health care reimbursement rate.  A bill mandating paid sick leave statewide passed but is expected to be vetoed.  Finally, three separate efforts to increase the minimum wage to $15 – statewide, in Baltimore City, and in Montgomery County – all failed.  Now the work to prepare for next session begins.

Delaware: Now’s The Time for Advocacy!

Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, DE Government Affairs (GAO)

The Delaware General Assembly has recessed until April 25, making now the perfect time to reach out to your legislators to schedule a visit with one of our clients or a discussion in your office.  Support for our rate floor bill is growing.  This bill would strengthen home health care across the state, ensuring that reimbursement rates from Medicaid-contracted organizations would be no lower than Medicaid pays directly.  This would enable all home health care providers to make informed business decisions, with the assurance that private rates would never fall below that “floor.”  We already have bipartisan support in the House.  We’re meeting with additional representatives and moving to build support with senators on both sides of the aisle as well.

Debates Heating Up In Baltimore City, MD

Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, MD Government Affairs (GAO)

Debate over mandating employer-paid sick leave statewide and an increased minimum wage for Baltimore City is heating up this week.  Both are expected to pass.  By the end of last week, the Maryland Senate and the House both reached their thousandth bill introduced since the 2017 session opened in mid-January.  Bills must be fully approved by both chambers before the last day of session, which is April 10 this year, or start anew in the following year in the state’s condensed legislative calendar.

Delaware: Moving Forward In 2017

Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, DE Government Affairs (GAO)

Governor John Carney took office in January, inheriting a budget deficit of $350 million.  As a result, the General Assembly is reviewing all planned expenditures for 2017.  I attended public hearings on all parts of the budget affecting the Department of Health and Social Services and testified on the need for a rate floor in Medicaid-contracted services.

Meet the DE, MD, NC, and PA Hearts for Home Care Ambassador of the Year Award Finalists

Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, DE and MD Government Affairs, Lee Dobson, Area Director, NC Government Affairs and Laura Ness, Director, PA Government Affairs (GAO)

Last week we introduced you to BAYADA’s New Jersey Hearts for Home Care Ambassador of the Year finalists. This week we profile the Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors from Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania who have been selected as finalists for their state Ambassador of the Year Awards. Their advocacy over the past year has shown their dedication to being a constant and powerful advocate for our staff and clients.

Now that you have met all of our finalists, next week we will announce the Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors of the Year from each state. These hard-working Ambassadors will receive a trip to Washington, DC for a special awards dinner where they will be honored and the National Ambassador of the Year will be named.

Delaware and Maryland

Baltimore West Visits (BWV) Area Director David Pareja volunteered to be an Ambassador at the beginning of December 2015. Despite his short tenure, he has been very effective. He learned the role, contacted Senator Gail Bates, and completed a very successful home visit at the beginning of January.

Senator Bates was elected in 2002 to the House where she served until elected to the Senate in 2015. She sits on the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and is a CPA by profession. This gives her credibility in tax and appropriations issues, as well as a vote on health-related matters. In addition to hosting this visit successfully, David involved his team in the effort and spread excitement about advocacy. In his role as area director, he has the ability to encourage others to follow his lead.

Delaware Pediatric North (DPN) Director Ali Knott has been a consistent supporter and advocate in Delaware public life. She and her son, Christopher, attended a meet-and-greet with Senator (now Lt. Governor) Bethany Hall-Long and Senator Nicole Poore after working hours in September where they both made a strong impression on both legislators. The event was hosted by leaders in the disability community, with whom Ali also maintains a good relationship.

In addition, Ali supported coordination and prepared to host a clinical roundtable in her office in December with the Lt. Governor-elect. Although the meeting had to rescheduled at the last minute, that does not diminish Ali’s willingness and effort in preparing for this meeting.

Delaware Pediatrics (DP) Clinical Manager Tiffany Willis and her three children spent most of a Sunday in August volunteering for Representative Paul Baumbach at a community fair. Representative Baumbach is known to be a coalition-builder, bringing together legislators with differing motivations to pass legislation that makes sense. He and Tiffany had a good conversation about the need for increased funding for home and community based services.

Following Tiffany’s efforts, Representative Baumbach has offered to sponsor legislation on our behalf. Tiffany has also been great at keeping in touch when she has received communications from her federal representatives and candidates for state elections that have reached out to her.

North Carolina

Lake Norman Adults (LNA) Director Chad Shore has been an Ambassador since 2015. In his first year as an Ambassador, he was named the 2015 North Carolina Ambassador Rookie of the Year.

In 2016, Chad hosted two home visits where local legislators visited with BAYADA clients. He responded to 100% of the online calls to action, represented BAYADA at numerous political receptions, and attended NC Legislative Day, where he served as a team leader. Thanks to his hard work and diligence, the LNA office is at 100% for Hearts for Home Care registration.

An Ambassador since 2015, Asheville Pediatrics (AP) Client Services Manager Jennifer Parham arranged to hold a roundtable in her office with a local legislator and coordinated two home visits with legislators and BAYADA clients.

She also served as a team leader during NC Legislative Day, Jennifer has also responded to 100% of the online calls to action and has achieved a 100% for Hearts for Home Care registration in the AP office.

Conover Adults (CON) Director Melissa Zuzolo is a repeat finalist. Last year, she was named the 2015 North Carolina Ambassador of the Year. In 2016, Melissa coordinated a home visit for a local legislator and served as a team leader for North Carolina Legislative Day.

She also represents BAYADA on the Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee, where she helped organize a large fundraiser for the organization. As an Ambassador since 2011, Melissa responds to 100% of the online calls to action and attends numerous legislative events on behalf of BAYADA. Thanks to her efforts, the CON office is at 100% for Hearts for Home Care registration.

Pennsylvania

Sellersville Pediatrics (SEL) Associate Christine Detweiler has been a Hearts for Home Care Ambassador for several years and her office has a 100% Hearts for Home Care registration rate. Chris has taken to building key relationships, and this year she focused in on Representative Craig Staats (R) through district office visits and home visits. Through her relationship building, Representative Staats began to see the importance of pediatric home care, especially after his visit with their client Gabe.

Chris was an integral part of Lobby Day where she encouraged Gabe and his mom to attend the event and worked with Representative Staat’s office to arrange parking and other needs. Representative Staats cleared a good amount of time to give Gabe and his family a tour of the Capitol and even arranged for Speaker Turzai to recognize Gabe and BAYADA on the House floor.

Because of their relationship, Rep. Staats wants to ensure that home care is known as the solution and that the state invests in it. He is a supporter and has asked for an active role in helping us achieve our goal of allowing presumptive eligibility for home care.

Berks County Visits (BRK) Nurse Trisha Lasher, an Ambassador since 2016, is our first field employee Hearts for Home Care Ambassador. While she was nervous about her first meeting with a legislator, she decided she’d do it on her own and hasn’t stopped since. Trisha started by visiting Representative Jim Cox (R) in his district, and followed up with him later that year in Harrisburg at Lobby Day. She wrote up her experience in the BAYADA Bulletin, which prompted a joint home visit with Representative Cox and the Reading Adult (RAD) assistive care office. Because of the relationship she had built with Representative Cox, when he went to visit an adult client he took immediate action to help the client. The client had been trying to get a chair glide installed in her house for five years. After the visit, Representative Cox made several calls to service coordinators, found systemic fraud and flaws in the system, and was able to get the client the chair glide within six weeks of the home visit. Building on their relationship, Representative Cox agreed to write letters of support for our pediatric rate increase, and the Medicaid spend-down issue.

As election time rolled around and GAO hosted the Bring the Vote Home Campaign, Trisha enlisted the help of all the office staff to call all clients. They educated clients on voting, the PHA voter guide, and let them know about absentee ballots. Trisha then organized field employees to visit those home and deliver the absentee ballots. From building relationships to advocating for clients’ needs, Trisha has shown her dedication to being an excellent Hearts for Home Care Ambassador.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS) Community Liaison Michael Sokoloski is another repeat finalist on our list. Last year he was selected as the PA Hearts for Home Care Ambassador of the Year as well as the National Ambassador of the Year. A Hearts for Home Care Ambassador since the program began six years ago, he has developed strong ties with every legislator in the northeast portion of the state and makes countless district office and home visits every year.

He also created a niche role for himself as an Ambassador mentor. He has helped others get into the program, helps them make their first visits, and answers questions. As he has started to help with field employee recruitment efforts, he has also hosted Hearts for Home Care Tables, which help introduce our advocacy program to field employees and get them registered on the advocacy center. Mike has planned four legislative roundtables this year to bring about a greater awareness of home care and our issues to key legislators.

Mike is so well known in the northeast that the local Area Agencies on Aging rely on him for information about the state. In fact, he even drove several of them to Harrisburg to participate in a hearing on the issues associated with the independent enrollment broker. Because of the very strong relationships Mike has developed with legislators, he was nominated by Representative Sid Michaels Kavulich to serve on the newly established Long-Term Care Council, and he was appointed to the council by then-Governor Tom Wolf. This council has one official home care representative and because of Mike’s relationships, he ensured BAYADA will be that voice.