States are beginning to make key changes to increase families’ access to home care
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased people’s awareness of the US healthcare system’s dependence on institutional care, and the potential dangers that come with a reliance on congregate healthcare settings. Nursing homes and hospital are a necessary part of the healthcare continuum, but COVID has undoubtedly increased the public’s appetite for—and governments’ understanding of—accessible home care.
COVID may have a long-term effect on healthcare policy, as it has shifted the spotlight to the inherent benefits of home-based care. Home care is cost-effective: It costs governments, insurance companies, and individual families less to provide care in the home than in a hospital or facility. It’s also patient preferred: 90% of America’s seniors say that they prefer to age in place, and families with medically-fragile children and adults know their loved ones do better when they are in their own home environments.
Home care advocates—state and national home care associations, providers, home care employees, and clients & families—have been advocating for better funding and better policies for home care for years with mixed success. In general, across the US, funding for home care programs continues to lag behind funding for services delivered in facilities like hospitals and nursing homes. But in this first post-COVID budget season, advocates have seen successes!
We’ve moved the needle: Several states increased their Medicaid funding for home care programs. The New Jersey legislature increased funding for home care by $2 more per hour, and for skilled nursing home care by $10 more per hour. Additionally, Delaware increased funding for skilled in-home nursing by 15%, and Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, and Pennsylvania have increased funding for private duty nursing by 10% or more. Thank you to these states for recognizing the importance of home care. Increased funding will help thousands of children, seniors, and adults with disabilities and medical complexities access the home care they’ve been struggling to access due to caregiver shortages that have plagued the nation.
Other states have increased funding for home care at smaller increments, including Minnesota and Vermont. While any increase is appreciated, there is still work to do in these states and many others: Increasing funding, and reviewing it regularly, is essential in ensuring that caregivers’ wages can remain competitive as costs of living continue to rise year by year. If home care funding is raised now, but then ignored for years to come, then families that need home care will be back to the same situation they were in pre-pandemic: Struggling to find the care they need to stay safe and healthy at home.