Why Client Advocacy Matters

 

BAYADA client Carly (front) is pictured here with NJ Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (right) during a legislative home visit, which served to familiarize the assemblyman about how home care affects his constituents. Carly and her mother Christina (left) also testified at a legislative hearing in Trenton about the need for increased Private Duty Nursing (PDN) rates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Client advocacy matters more than that of home care industry professionals. While home care professionals can share facts and figures about home care with legislators, it is clients’ stories that truly paint the picture of what home care means to legislators’ constituents.

Whether a home care client is an infant, senior, or any age in-between, it is very likely that the nursing or aide services that they rely on is from a Medicaid or Medicare program.  What this means is that government officials are the ones making the decisions on care regulations and reimbursement rates rather than those who are regularly affected by home care.  Home care providers must accept these rates and regulations and provide care to the best of their abilities based on what the government has set forth rather than on what is actually best for clients and their families.

Home care employees regularly see that many of the government reimbursement rates for home care are low and have not been increased in years. This has a domino effect in that if providers can’t bring more revenue in, they can’t pay higher rates to attract more staff to care for current clients or for new clients who will need care in the future.

Many areas of our country are starting to age and will need caregivers to allow people to live in their homes instead of in facilities, yet projections indicate fewer people want to be professional caregivers due to the industry’s low wages. Additionally, more nurses are choosing employment in other types of settings, which makes it difficult for many home care clients to have adequate nursing coverage because facilities such as hospitals can pay nurses a higher wage.

As elections come and go, we see changes in our government leaders and with these changes come the possibility of healthcare policy changes. These changes can be sudden and unpredictable, and these changes often threaten funding cuts to important programs such as Medicaid or Medicare. Any funding cuts to these programs would be devastating to home care providers and to program beneficiaries.

The interesting thing is that the representatives and senators who we vote for at the state and federal level make these decisions, and few of them have strong healthcare backgrounds.  In addition, it is their job to represent all of the people from their respective districts to the best of their abilities. While provider employees can share their voices through legislative meetings, clients’ and their family members’ advocating and sharing their stories matter most.

Clients who benefit from home care and their family members have their own special stories to tell.  As the end users of nursing and aide services, clients and family members have the first-hand knowledge of how the Medicaid and Medicare programs are working and what could be done to improve them.  Clients names, faces, and shared stories paint a far more detailed picture of home care than industry professionals can with facts and figures. When legislators vote on issues related to home care, clients stories are better-remembered, and legislators are much more likely to vote for favorable home care policies with these in mind.

“I’ve been an advocate for my wife, who is 100 percent dependent, for 16 years,” said Mike Pollock, the husband of a client who advocates to protect home care for his wife and all who need services.  “Thanks to Medicare and Medicaid and BAYADA, I’ve been able to care for her at home.  Although Medicare and Medicaid are excellent resources, they have their issues.  An excellent resource for solving these issues are our elected officials,” Pollock said.  “In fact, elected officials are the only people capable of fixing issues that arise within Medicare and Medicaid. But they can’t help if they don’t know what we as family caregivers are dealing with every day.  Never hesitate about reaching out to them. It’s been my experience they are eager to help,” Pollock concluded.

By putting advocacy into action and connecting our clients to their elected officials, there is a far better chance that Medicaid and Medicare will be protected and grow with the needs of our clients. Please email me at rhynick@bayada.com for more information related to client and family advocacy and what you can do to help protect and strengthen the home care industry in your state and at the federal level.

The Power of Advocacy: Home Care Employees Share Impassioned Testimony to Advocate for Nursing Rate Increases

Home health care advocate testifies in front of Delaware Joint Finance Committee 2018
BAYADA RN Victoria Carter advocates for higher reimbursement rates by providing moving testimony in front of the Delaware Joint Finance Committee

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.

Top left to bottom right: Danielle Myers, Jennifer Scott, Alice Knott, Amanda Brady, nursing student Morgan Luther; Jennifer Saulsbury, Victoria Carter, Shannon Gahs

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!

States Struggle to Recruit and Retain In-Home Nurses Due to Low Reimbursement Rates… But Advocacy Can Help

Home health care companies around the country struggle to recruit and retain enough qualified workers to support the growing number of children, adults and seniors that want to be cared for in their own homes. Recruitment and retention issues stem from a number of reasons, including the nationwide nursing shortage, low US unemployment rates, and inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates that leave home care providers in a position where their wages cannot compete with those of other settings and industries.

BAYADA Home Health Care was recently featured in a Wall Street Journal article for the company’s efforts in solving for this by recruiting nurses from Puerto Rico to fill open nursing positions in Minneapolis. The island’s unemployment rate, currently at 10.8% is much higher than that of Minneapolis, which is currently listed at 2.4%.

A 2.4% unemployment rate is low even compared to the US rate, which is currently at a 17-year low of 4.1%. This low unemployment rate is compounded by the fact that in many states, Medicaid reimbursement rates are too low for home care providers to be able to recruit and retain workers, who can be paid a higher wage in other settings, like hospitals, and industries, like fast food and retail.

And it doesn’t end with a lack of workers for home care providers. This lack of caregivers can lead to an access to care issue in which individuals who can be cared for at home are left with no option but to receive care in a hospital or institution. Finding qualified caregivers is often cited as home care providers’ top challenge, and future estimates show that demand for in-home care will continue to grow due to the aging of baby boomers at alarming speeds.

What can you do to help? Share your voice. Reimbursement rate review and adjustment decisions are generally made in state capitols when legislators determine that such a need exists. This need must be communicated to legislators so that they understand the pressing nature of the issue and what could happen to the state’s Medicaid population if the issue is not addressed.

We can help you reach your legislators to let them know what increased reimbursement rates mean for you and your community. And if you would like to make an even bigger impact, consider meeting your lawmakers in-person at our Lobby Day. We take care of the scheduling and preparations- all you need to do is show up and share your voice. Upcoming Lobby Days are as follows:

Minneapolis, Minnesota: 3/6/18
Dover, Delaware: 3/14/18
Columbus, South Carolina: 4/4/18
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: 5/22/18
Raleigh, North Carolina: 5/30/18
New Jersey: District office visits 4/20-5/4/18
Maryland: TBD

Contact Rick Hynick to find out what you can do to advocate, whether it be sharing your personal story, contacting your legislators, or participating in an upcoming state Lobby Day!

Advocacy Key to Getting Hospitalized Children Home

Increased wages for pediatric home nurses can bring more hospitalized children back home to their parents.

ThinkAdvisor recently published an article about numerous cases across the country in which hospitalized children are cleared to return home but cannot due to the severe shortage of home care nurses.  This means that these children must live in the hospital or other institution until they can get the nursing care they need at home. This lack of available skilled nurses has created a huge financial and emotional strain on these children’s parents and families.

So where are these nurses? Making higher wages in other settings and industries. Even though home nursing is almost always less expensive than hospital care, private insurance rarely covers the service and Medicaid pays very little for it. This leaves few nurses willing to work for these low wages, especially when they can receive higher pay in other settings or other industries entirely.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! Increasing the reimbursement rate for in-home nurses is possible, and increased wages increase parents’ access to in-home nursing care for their child. In Pennsylvania, for example, BAYADA home health care employees, clients, and clients’ family members advocated for a pediatric nursing rate increase and received a $5 per hour increase. BAYADA saw open hours for the program decrease by nearly 50% for one of our largest payors.

A parent coalition in Massachusetts successfully advocated for increased reimbursement rates after over a decade of stagnant rates. But in Massachusetts, the increase still is not enough—parents say that the wages remain too low to attract and retain enough home nurses for their state’s medically complex pediatric population.

In Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and in other states around the nation fighting an in-home nursing shortage, advocacy is the key. It’s important that we raise our voices about this issue so that legislators can understand what home care means to parents of medically complex children.

If you are interested in finding out what you can do to help bring these children home, let’s chat! Shoot an email to advocacy@bayada.com.

Trump Signs RAISE Family Caregivers Act, Bringing Hope to Over 40 million Family Caregivers Nationwide

Last week President Donald Trump signed the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, which passed the US House on December 18th and the US Senate on January 9th with strong bipartisan support in each chamber. Despite the tenuous political landscape, it goes to show that there is strong understanding that nationally, more must be done to support the over 40 million family caregivers in the United States.

The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act of 2017—better known as the RAISE Family Caregivers Act—directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and maintain a national family caregiving strategy to address the needs of family caregivers. This plan must be developed within 18 months and the strategy must be updated every other year.

The act also establishes an advisory body that will bring together stakeholders from the private and public sectors to make recommendations that communities, providers, government and others may take to help caregivers. Some of the topics that will likely be addressed by the council include: respite services and options, workplace flexibility and financial security, and training support for navigating the healthcare system.

“The idea is to come up with best practices for health care providers and others, for employers to better support family caregivers and for government to better support family caregivers,” said Rhonda Richards, senior legislative representative of AARP. AARP championed the legislation, which received broad support from disability advocacy groups and other organizations, including the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC).

Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) were the bill’s primary sponsors in the Senate and the primary sponsor in the House was Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.). Rep. Harper has real-life experience in the family caretaker role, having been caregiver to both his mother and his 28-year-old-son who suffers from Fragile X Syndrome.

According to AARP research, caregivers aged 50 and older who leave the workforce to care for a parent lose, on average, over $300,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetime. The financial, emotional and physical burden of caregiving is compounded by the nation’s aging population and the sharply shrinking “caregiver support ratio”- the number of potential family caregivers aged 45-64 for each person 80 and older. This legislation not only brings awareness to family caregiving issues, but will hopefully begin addressing the struggles that millions of family caregivers in our country face due to lack of support.

If you’d like to read about the RAISE Family Caregivers Act farther, Forbes has published a two-part series which focuses on the legislation’s specifics, and real life stories of the struggles of American caregivers.

*Update: The Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) released a fact sheet that contains information about the RAISE Family Caregivers Act and data specific to Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers.

BAYADA Chief Government Affairs Officer Successfully Delivers MLTSS Implementation Presentation to MACPAC

Dave Totaro served as a panelist to inform Commissioners about lessons learned from Managed Care and MLTSS implementation in BAYADA states.

Last Thursday BAYADA Home Health Care’s Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro served as a panelist during the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission’s (MACPAC) public meeting in Washington, DC. This opportunity was especially unique and important for BAYADA because MACPAC serves to provide policy and data analysis and make recommendations to Congress, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the states on a wide array of issues affecting Medicaid and CHIP. We are optimistic that Dave’s insights will help shape the Commission’s future recommendations on state and federal Managed Care and MLTSS policies and procedures.

MACPAC extended the invitation to Dave to serve as the panel’s provider representative due to BAYADA’s experience with Managed Long Term Services and Supports (MLTSS) and managed care implementation across a number of states. Dave accepted the opportunity and successfully delivered his presentation in front of the 17-person Commission and a public audience, which included a number of congressional staffers and CMS representatives.

Aside from Dave, participating panelists were Dennis Heaphy, a MLTSS beneficiary and expert on public health from Massachusetts’s Disability Policy Consortium, and Michelle Bentzien-Purrington, Vice President of MLTSS and Duals Integration at Molina Healthcare. Dave’s presentation focused on BAYADA’s experience in implementing Managed Care across multiple states, particularly the lessons learned that can translate to better implementation in future states looking toward managed care and MLTSS.

tactics for Managed Care Long Term Services and Supports MTLSS implementation success

Dave presented MLTSS implementation as a three-legged stool: Adequate rates, state supports, and federal process changes must all be in place for a successful rollout. Should one of the legs be faulty, then the entire operation is set to fail. The presentation described for the Commission:

  • The need for the state to set adequate reimbursement rates and why inadequate rates affect providers’ ability to recruit, retain, and compete, which can lead to an unhealthy provider network and, ultimately, an access to care issue
  • The need for states to protect a set adequate rate via a rate floor, and the need to regularly review and adjust this rate
  • The need for state oversight and regulation of MCOs so that providers can focus on care delivery rather than managing the administrative burdens and variable practices of each MCO
  • The importance of the federal government equalizing Home and Community Based Services with nursing home care to solve for the institutional bias that currently allows LTSS individuals to access facility care more easily than home and community-based care
  • The need for the federal government to collect uniform data so that MCOs and providers can work together to close care gaps and save the state money

Each section was accompanied by BAYADA-state specific examples, and the presentation concluded with a series of recommendations related to each of the above points. Throughout Dave’s presentation, the Commissioners and audience were engaged and following along to the accompanying PowerPoint. After his presentation, Commissioner Leanna George—the mother of a child currently living in an Intermediate Care Facility—positively commented that rate floor setting was as avenue towards ensuring adequate reimbursement rates that she had not heard of before.

During the Q&A portion of the meeting, Commissioner Brian Burwell asked that each panelist state which area of MLTSS the Commission should focus their research and attention. The other panelists echoed Dave’s sentiments regarding federal changes to rebalance HCBS with nursing home care to remove institutional biases that continue to affect beneficiaries who wish to remain at home.

After the panel wrapped up, Commission Chair Penny Thompson approached Dave to compliment him on his presentation, and Dave has already been contacted by MACPAC’s Executive Director Anne Schwartz regarding his future support and counsel on MLTSS. GAO is ready to work with the Commission on next steps and is excited to be at the table to help recommend policies that are favorable to home care providers.

Thank you to all BAYADA colleagues that assisted Dave in the research and creation of this presentation:

  • Alisa Borovik
  • Melissa Burnside
  • Lee Dobson
  • Linda Hughes
  • Kelly Lawson
  • Louise Lindenmeier
  • Matthew Lippitt
  • Kerry Meabon
  • Tara Montague
  • Laura Ness
  • Jennifer Vranich

Fifth Annual NJ BAYADA Champion Awards Ceremony Connects with Purpose

Dave Totaro, Champions Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, Senator-elect Declan O’Scanlon, Lieutenant Governor-elect Sheila Oliver, and Louise Lindenmeier

In December at the BAYADA Home Health Care Champion Awards we reflected on a year of many victories and looked ahead to a new year with new challenges. Speakers, awardees and nearly 100 guests celebrated the successful increase of NJ’s fee-for-service rate for personal care assistants to $19 per hour. We also acknowledged employees’, clients’ and home care industry friends’ commitment to advocacy. These efforts led to the passage of A320/S1018, which was signed by Governor Christie earlier this year. Effective this July, A320/S1018 requires Managed Medicaid reimbursement rates for home health aide services to be at or above the state’s fee-for-service rate.

An inspirational highlight of the night, those in attendance were moved by Dana Insley’s touching speech. Dana is the mother of a young client who had a difficult start to life. Dana’s daughter was placed in foster care before being adopted by the Insley family. Dana spoke of the blessing home care has been in her family’s life and discussed the significant improvements her daughter has made with the support of her BAYADA nurses.

The evening’s honorees, Lieutenant Governor-elect Sheila Oliver, Senator-elect Declan O’Scanlon, and Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz were visibly moved by Dana’s remarks and reiterated their support for home care during their acceptance remarks.

Also honored at the ceremony was Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, who represents New Jersey’s 4th District, which encompasses the Insley family’s home. Assemblyman Moriarty had visited the Insleys home in the past and was able to glean a full and meaningful understanding of the day-to-day life of a child receiving home care.

After a heartfelt evening that reminded everyone of our purpose and why we do what we do, Chief Government Affairs Officer David Totaro took the stage to remind all of those in attendance of the importance of advocacy and that, in addition to words, action is needed. He noted the huge impact of New Jersey advocates, who sent nearly one-quarter of all messages directed to federal legislators this summer from BAYADA’s network during the health care reform debate. Thank You for your commitment to advocacy.

Together with our Champions, we can make a meaningful difference to the lives of our clients and BAYADA caregivers. If you would like to get more involved in New Jersey’s advocacy program, sign up to become a Heart for Home Care Advocate.

Equalizing Access Legislation Approved in PA House Health Committee

Submitted by Laura Ness, Director, PA Government Affairs (GAO)

On November 21, the House Health Committee met and unanimously voted to approve HB 1829. HB 1829 allows individuals to be presumed eligible for home health care. This practice is currently allowed for nursing homes but is not extended to home care. Because of this, Pennsylvanians often go without the help they need or are unnecessarily placed in a nursing home. The legislation approved included two amendments, which changes the name “presumptive eligibility” to “deemed eligibility”. It also extends this process to allow adult day centers to do presumptive eligibility as well. We are very pleased with this outcome. Next the bill will go to the House Appropriations Committee. The Government Affairs Office (GAO) is working to set up meetings with Appropriations Committee members to ask them to support this legislation.

Government Affairs Office Hits the Road in North Carolina

Submitted by Lee Dobson, Area Director, NC Government Affairs (GAO)

Often we talk about sharing our message, making our point, and communicating our value proposition.  Those are things we, in the Government Affairs Office (GAO), must do as we seek support for our issues with lawmakers.  One such conversation was had with Representative Nelson Dollar earlier last week, where Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro and I thanked him for his past support on the rate increases and continued our conversation around our priorities for the year to come.

If we are to continue to be successful in building a strong advocacy base, it is not enough to build relationships with lawmakers.  We must also get to know our internal BAYADA customers–our staff and clients.  As such, we visited six home health offices on the I-85 corridor.  It was great to be able to provide a legislative update, share advocacy information, and solicit feedback.  It helps ground our efforts and put things into perspective.

Special thanks to Division Director Richard Hopson, Area Director Shad Morgheim, and the office directors for allowing us to visit. We really enjoyed visiting with staff at CV, CHF, GAV, CAV, SC, DAV, RV, and DRF.

Photo:  Area Director Lee Dobson, Rep. Nelson Dollar, and Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro
Photo: Area Director Lee Dobson, Rep. Nelson Dollar, and Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro

New NJ Governor Elected!

Submitted by Louise Lindenmeier, Director, NJ Government Affairs (GAO)

On November 7, voters elected nominee Phil Murphy to serve as the state’s 56th Governor starting this January through 2022.  Governor-elect Murphy chose Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver to serve as Lieutenant Governor.  Assemblywoman Oliver served as Speaker of the Assembly for four years.  All 120 of the legislative seats were also up for election.  The democrats increased their majorities in both houses where they will control the Senate 25-15, and the Assembly 52-28.  BAYADA is looking forward to the new administration to support home health care and help us deal with the many challenges of managed Medicaid, access to care, and increasing wages for our field staff through higher reimbursement under Medicaid and waiver programs.