Pennsylvania Home Care Recipients Advocate for Better Access to Home Care

 Pennsylvania ranks seventh in the nation for the percent of its population that is 65 years of age or older1. As Baby Boomers continue to age and the population of older adults needing long-term care increases, the need for caregivers will continue to increase as well. Since COVID shined a light on major drawbacks of congregate living facilities like nursing homes and institutions, it is not just the elderly population that are choosing to be cared for at home. This is great news for the hundreds of thousands of individuals and families who prefer to age at home rather than in a facility. However, it also poses a major problem: there aren’t enough caregivers to take care of the current Pennsylvania population at home let alone the 29% growth that will occur by 2028, leaving a shortage of 73,000 home health aides2. This is due in large part to low state funding for Medicaid programs like Pennsylvania’s Personal Assistance Services (PAS) that cares for medically fragile individuals.

Stephen Hoppy from Luzerne County, PA with his home health aides

This is where our advocates come in. Home care recipients across the Commonwealth have banded together to help alleviate this growing caregiver shortage. Advocates like Stephen Hoppy from Luzerne County, PA are speaking out and helping raise awareness of the inadequate state funding. Stephen is approved for 20 hours per day of care from the PAS program, but since he cannot find enough caregivers to cover all those hours, he has been paying $500 per week out of his own pocket to help secure that coverage. Recently, Stephen was interviewed by FOX56 News about how the caregiver shortage has affected him.

“I am advocating because our healthcare system is compromised. There are plenty of people worse off than me that can’t get home care, which is unacceptable. These home health aides are medical professionals, and they need to be paid for their expertise and knowledge,” says Stephen.

COVID has only exacerbated this issue, with a mass exodus of health care workers no longer willing to risk their lives for a career that yields an average of only $12.40/hour. BAYADA Home Health Care has had to deny 40% of PAS cases in 2020 and 2021 because there were not enough caregivers to staff the cases. Teri Henning, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA), says she’s hearing similar numbers from PAS providers across the board. “They simply cannot compete for the workforce,” she says. “Home health aides can earn more money doing similar work in other state home care programs, or in nursing homes, or even doing less physically- and emotionally-demanding work at Amazon, Target, or in fast food.”

“BAYADA Home Health Care has had to deny 40% of PAS cases in 2020 and 2021 because there were not enough caregivers to staff the cases.”

Pittsburgh resident, Maria Kolat with son Matthew

Home care advocate and mother, Maria, from Pittsburgh has also joined Hearts for Home Care’s advocacy efforts after experiencing these issues firsthand with her 22-year-old son, Matthew, who is developmentally disabled and requires non-stop supervision. Since COVID, their lives have dramatically changed—his schooling, his ability to receive psychological and medical care and—very significantly—his family’s ability to access the home health aide (HHA) care that Matthew needs and is qualified to receive. Maria and Matthew were featured on Pittsburgh’s local KDKA 2CBS station advocating on behalf of home health aides.

“Aides are leaving the caregiving field to work at big retail like Walmart and Amazon—or in fast food,” says Maria. “They can make $15 an hour or more there. When we see a revolving door of aides, Matthew can’t get the one-on-one care he needs, which puts him at risk.”

Home care advocates like Stephen and Maria give life to our advocacy efforts ─ their real-life experiences aren’t just numbers and statistics, but genuine struggles that thousands of Pennsylvanians endure every single day. They help tell the story so that legislators and influencers can fully grasp how their decisions are affecting their constituents and communities.

Home care advocates like Stephen and Maria give life to our advocacy efforts.

At the end of the day, when aides are not being drawn into working in home care, it’s Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents like Matthew and Stephen who suffer. PHA, home care providers, and advocates are asking the State to increase funding for the PAS program. Additional funding would put home care agencies in a better position to recruit and retain more HHAs, and thus ensure that PAS beneficiaries can continue to access the care they need to stay safe and healthy at home.

  1. https://www.leadingagepa.org/Portals/0/154869%20Long%20Term%20Care%20Statistics%20Book%20revised%20final.pdf page 14.
  2. https://mercer.healthcare-workforce.us/ +math

Advocacy Matters!

At Hearts for Home Care, we help those that care about home care by enabling you to get involved at the capacity in which you’re able to do so. Email us at advocacy@bayada.com or follow us on Facebook.com/Hearts4HomeCare in order to learn more about the home care advocacy community and find opportunities to get involved.

2020 Ambassador of the Year: Brad Needham

Advocacy became part of the culture at BAYADA Home Health Care a little over 10 years ago out of a need for a collective voice to speak on behalf of our clients, families, and field staff who are impacted every day by home care

As Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro, likes to say, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That’s why we created the Hearts for Home care program. The more voices in support of home care, the better we can protect the industry and the millions of US residents in need of this care. If politicians, media, and key decisionmakers aren’t aware of the challenges facing home care today–and the essential benefit it provides to our most vulnerable populations—they won’t be part of the solution.

So, we banded together a voluntary group of advocates within the company with the single purpose of acting as a voice for those in the home care community that may not have had the opportunity otherwise ─ they are our Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors. 

Our ambassadors serve as the liaison between the Hearts for Home Care advocacy team and their co-workers and home care community. Their primary responsibility is to develop and foster relationships with their direct-constituent legislators to spread awareness and advocate for better wages for field staff, more approved hours for clients, and the overall governmental investment in the home care industry. Year after year, our ambassadors go above and beyond to ensure legislators are aware of the crucial importance of home care for so many families across the country. 

Last week, Hearts for Home Care presented the 2020 National Ambassador of the Year Award to director of Assistive State Programs in Delaware, Bradley Needham for his role as a dedicated, passionate, and influential ambassador. Throughout 2020, Brad quickly became one of Delaware’s “go to” senior ambassadors, solidifying himself as a strong leader in the advocacy realm. There has never been an elected official who he hasn’t been willing to speak with, a town hall he hasn’t been willing to attend, or an action alert he hasn’t acted on.

Delaware State Representative, Mike Smith congratulating AOTY winner, Brad Needham.

Brad brings tremendous passion to his work as a senior ambassador, as well as a knowledge of home care that almost always sets the tone for his legislative meetings. Even as 2020 brought new and unique challenges to the government advocacy space, Brad continued to meet them head on, going so far as to take ownership of developing and maintain relationships with new and veteran legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Brad helped lead the effort in securing a home health aide rate floor in Delaware, ensuring home health aide reimbursement rates are equitable or above market averages. When organizations like H4HC advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves, change for the better can happen ─ new laws are drafted and policies are amended to strengthen support of these important services.

Advocacy Matters!

At Hearts for Home Care, we help those that care about home care by enabling you to get involved at the capacity in which you’re able to do so. Email us at advocacy@bayada.com or follow us on Facebook.com/Hearts4HomeCare in order to learn more about the home care advocacy community and find opportunities to get involved.

As Drawbacks of Nursing Homes are Recognized, It’s Time to Recognize Home Care as the Future

Medicaid Home Based Care
Home health aides help keep many families together at home.

Whether you are a professional or family caregiver, home care recipient, or otherwise, you know why home care is safer, more patient-preferred, and less costly than institutional care. Home care provides vulnerable seniors and adults with disabilities with one-on-one care that enables them to stay safe and independent in their own communities. While its benefits—and the inherent drawbacks of institutional care—are evident to us, home care is still not widely recognized as a long-term solution. This is because nursing home care is still often seen as the “default” option for those that need consistent care, particularly under Medicaid.

But tables are beginning to turn: As the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the dangers of nursing home care. With recent reports citing that a staggering 40% of COVID-related deaths have occurred in nursing homes, people are more widely recognizing home care as the long-term care setting of the future.

Home care saves state Medicaid programs money and helps vulnerable Americans stay out of costlier and more infectious settings like hospitals and rehab facilities. It enables more than 8.3 million Americans to remain healthy at home, thanks to the 3.2 million compassionate and dedicated frontline direct care workers, including home health aides and personal care assistants, that keep these at-risk populations safe, independent, and out of riskier institutional settings.

In a post-COVID world, home will become recognized much more widely as the care setting of the future. With the US’s aging population growing quickly, and with families’ recently-discovered reservations about placing their loved ones in a long-term care facility, it is important that governments across the country take steps to make sure that the home care industry grows proportionately along with the demand for it. This includes: Increasing state and federal Medicaid rates for home care services so that providers can raise wages and allow more caregivers to be recruited to the home care workforce; Rethinking outdated laws and regulations that allow vulnerable populations to more readily access nursing home care; and instituting built-in protections for Medicaid-based agencies, such as relief funding for extraneous costs that occur during an emergency like COVID-19.

A “Home First” mentality would allow for individuals to stay safe at home and away from group settings that encourage virus spread. Now more than ever, the potential dangers of institutional care are becoming a frightening reality and we as a nation need to consider the future of healthcare as our population continues to age, and as more medically-fragile and disabled individuals are able to live independently. By updating laws to prioritize home care, we have the opportunity to create a meaningful, cost-effective and common-sense change to healthcare for the post-COVID future.

If you are ready to advocate for home health care, please contact us at advocacy@bayada.com.

Recognition and Fair Compensation for Frontline Home Care Workers—During COVID and Beyond

By: Dave Totaro, Chairman of the Partnership for Medicaid Home-based Care

Below, please find an opinion piece authored by Dave Totaro—Chairman of the Partnership for Medicaid Home-based Care (PMHC) and BAYADA Home Health Care’s Chief Government Affairs Officer. This was originally published in the Scranton Times-Tribune on May 10, 2020.

Our nation’s frontline healthcare workers have been recognized during the COVID-19 pandemic, arguably more than ever before—and rightfully so. These essential workers put their health and safety on the line in order to make sure that the most vulnerable populations are taken care of. But these workers—particularly the caregivers that keep these individuals at home and out of riskier settings like nursing homes—deserve more than cheers, front lawn signs, and complimentary cups of coffee. It is time that our federal and state governments fairly compensate these brave and compassionate workers for the sacrifices that they are making during this critical time through Hazard Pay—that is, temporary increases in hourly wages for workers who are risking the most yet earning the least.

Congress has passed three stimulus bills so far, and have done so quickly and commendably with an eye toward helping the economy and the unemployed. But these packages have not yet focused on compensation for those who are working—the essential employees that risk their safety to care for the many that can’t help themselves. And while many healthcare professionals within hospitals and institutions have been impacted, the federal government has not yet prioritized the caregivers that keep people healthy at home.

Congress is currently working on the fourth (and likely final) stimulus bill. This presents a vital opportunity to increase Hazard Pay for healthcare workers who put their safety on the line every day. While the first three stimulus packages have increased emergency funding for states, only a handful of states have used those funds to increase pay for frontline healthcare workers. Currently, there are three potential proposals that would serve to increase pay for these workers across the US—either of which would reward home care workers and incentivize many to begin or continue their career in a field that is much-needed during this time.

Home care workers—particularly home health aides—are largely females of color who are making slightly above minimum wage. Yet they are some of the most essential workers—caring for those who are unable to care for themselves. And not only is their job physically and emotionally tolling, but the prioritization of hospital care has made it increasingly harder for home care agencies to access personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and gowns, for these workers. And, to top it all off, we are regarding them as heroes without considering fair compensation for their commitment and sacrifice.

Now more than ever, the potential dangers that go hand-in-hand with nursing home living are becoming a frightening reality and we as a nation need to consider the future of healthcare as our population continues to age. Nearly 20% of COVID-related deaths have occurred in nursing homes. Not only is in-home care the best way to ensure that the most at-risk populations—seniors and the medically fragile—stay as isolated as possible rather than be grouped in together, it also ensures that they are in the most cost-effective setting for their families and for the state and federal governments themselves.

COVID-19 has hit many Americans hard, and few are exempt from at least some negative consequences as a result. But it is clear that there are some who are risking more than others, and who are sacrificing their personal safety in order to keep others healthy and independent at home… both in times of crisis and times of normalcy. So while the recognition and support of frontline workers is certainly appreciated, it does little to truly show home care workers how valuable they are. Through the development of the fourth stimulus package, the federal government has the opportunity to meaningfully show at-home caregivers what they mean to America—both now and in the future. Home health care has been making headlines in recent media coverage.

In order to join those who are advocating for better home health care funding and policies on behalf of beneficiaries, their families, and frontline workers, contact us at advocacy@bayada.com

Two Workgroups Formed to Explore Changes in the State Medicaid Reimbursement Model

Recent conversations with MCC Waiver Administrator Michelle White have revealed that the time is right to explore making significant changes in the nursing reimbursement model.  GAO has formed two workgroups to analyze and evaluate options to address Medicaid policy and its reimbursement model for nursing.

First, we’ve formed a BAYADA technical expert group representing the relevant practices and leadership to help inform BAYADA’s recommendations.  The second group is a larger provider workgroup within the SC Association for Home Care & Hospice. As a SCAHHC Board member, I have been asked to co-chair this workgroup to draft industry recommendations.  BAYADA will draw from its internal workgroup to inform the conversation with the industry and Medicaid.  This is a great opportunity to address the challenges and recommend a unified solution to DHHS that can be a win-win for providers, the state, and ultimately- clients.

Thank you to the SC Advisory Council and the workgroups! I look forward to working with you to develop recommendations that will lead to better outcomes for our staff, clients and their families!

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