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 State Medicaid Budget Shielded From Cuts

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

Governor John Carney introduced his budget, addressing the $385 million budget shortfall the state faces this year.  He proposed to make up half of the amount through new tax revenue and the other half by cutting spending.  Many state programs are facing cuts, the state is freezing hiring, some (non-health) facilities will be shut down.  In light of all of that, it is remarkable to be able to say that the governor included $11.8 million additional dollars to Medicaid to ensure that the program continues to be fully-funded.

BAYADA Sponsors Second Lobby Day in Massachusetts

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

The Government Affairs Office (GAO) organized a second lobby day for continuous skilled nursing providers and parents to discuss our Patient Bill of Rights.  With over 27 meetings scheduled, we focused on meeting with our legislators that sit on important committees and introduced our need to file a budget amendment to support the increased reimbursement rate needed to compete for a median of nurses.  The day was successful, as we lined up House and Senate budget amendment sponsors and additional co-sponsors for the bill.  As stated by the lobbyists from the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, we “have set a solid foundation to build upon.” Next, we wait to see where the House will assign the bill and wait for a budget hearing.

Pennsylvania House And Senate Appropriations Committees Host Marathon Hearings

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

Last week, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee hosted hearings for the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Department of Aging, the Department of Health, and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. This was an opportunity for the various secretaries to defend the Governor’s proposed 2017-2018 budget.

Each hearing lasted for five hours and covered a variety of subjects.  Much of the discussion centered around the value of home care and Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour. During the hearing, DHS Secretary Ted Dallas acknowledged if the minimum wage is increased, the state will also need to increase reimbursement rates. Secretary Dallas claims a $12 minimum wage would lift 145,000 Pennsylvanians out of poverty and off of assistance. The secretary has calculated that it would save the state $48 million in DHS spending.

BAYADA Sponsors Second Lobby Day in Massachusetts

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

The Government Affairs Office (GAO) organized a second lobby day for continuous skilled nursing providers and parents to discuss our Patient Bill of Rights.  With over 27 meetings scheduled, we focused on meeting with our legislators that sit on important committees and introduced our need to file a budget amendment to support the increased reimbursement rate needed to compete for a median of nurses.  The day was successful, as we lined up House and Senate budget amendment sponsors and additional co-sponsors for the bill.  As stated by the lobbyists from the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, we “have set a solid foundation to build upon.” Next, we wait to see where the House will assign the bill and wait for a budget hearing.

PA Governor Tom Wolf Announces Plan to Consolidate Departments Crucial to Home Care

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

During Governor Tom Wolf’s budget address, he proposed consolidating the Department of Human Services (formerly known as the Department of Public Welfare) the Department of Aging, the Department of Health, and the Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs.  If the consolidation goes through it will be called the PA Department of Health & Human Services.  It will also be one of the largest state agencies in the United States.  There are concerns by many advocacy groups that this could lead to additional bureaucracy and more items getting “lost in the shuffle”.  Wolf claims the consolidation will lead to seniors and disabled individuals having greater support and coordination of benefits.  BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office (GAO) will continue to track this proposal and evaluate the impact.  To read the full announcement click here.

North Carolina State Budget Surplus Projected

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

NC Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger indicated that the state will have a budget surplus of over $500 million on a budget of $22.5 billion.  While this projection is encouraging, our legislative asks remains high.  Our increase request will take the aide rate from $13.88 to $17.00 over two years, which is nearly a fifty million dollar appropriation.  To put things into perspective, last year there was a $425 budget surplus and our legislative ask was $3.6 million for nursing.  We continue to garner support for this much needed increase.  Watch for ways to get involved.

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.

Maryland Legislative Session Opens

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

An intense 90-day legislative session opened January 11 with Governor Larry Hogan pledging to operate in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation, as did Senate President Mike Miller.  Speaker of the House Michael Busch did not, promising instead to press forward with a Democratic agenda.  Mandatory paid sick leave and addressing a huge budget shortfall are expected to be the biggest topics of 2017.

New Delaware Governor and Lieutenant Governor Sworn In

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

The 2017 legislative session opened January 10 and a newly-elected governor and lieutenant governor were sworn in on January 17.  Governor John Carney and Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long are expected to focus on the state’s financial situation and a large budget shortfall this year.  Director of Delaware Pediatric Visits (DP) Mandy Brady and I attended Carney and Hall-Long’s inauguration celebration on Tuesday evening.

Photo: Mandy Brandy and Shannon Gahs at Tuesday’s inauguration