Delaware Session Wraps Up


Shannon Gahs, Patty Watson, and Ali Knott met with Rep. David Bentz (top right) to thank him for his support of home health care

The Delaware General Assembly typically closes late into the evening on its June 30 deadline, giving the last day of session extra drama, a party for winners and a night of stomach-wrenching stress for those hoping for a last-minute miracle. Typically what keeps them in session is debate over the state’s annual budget. This year, the budget process was different in two ways- first, the state had a surplus of funds because of changes to the federal tax code; second, the budget passed with three days to spare. Most of the $20 million in unexpected funds went to long-overdue pay raises for state employees and teachers. The legislature also passed paid parental leave for state employees, filled open state positions that investigate child abuse and neglect and that staff juvenile detention facilities, and shored up programs that benefit those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and that improve reading and special education. Much of the public debate in Dover this year was around gun rights and legalizing marijuana.

This year, we asked the legislature for a 21 percent increase in the RN and LPN home care reimbursement rates, an ask that would cost the state about $3.1 million annually. BAYADA Delaware leaders and our Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors educated and advocated by giving testimony at a Joint Finance Committee hearing, meeting with legislators and being active on social media campaigns. The legislature, with the stated intent of being economically frugal and with an eye on whether they were constraining future legislatures by increasing recurring expenses, looked more favorably on one-time expenses and grants this year. We did not get the increase. We did, however, build support with many legislators. At the end of session, five legislators committed to meet together in the fall to determine strategy for how to improve rates for nurses who are currently reimbursed at the same levels as they were 13 years ago.

The end of June saw the ends of legislative careers for more than 25 percent of the legislature through retirements and public intentions not to run for re-election. Primary Day for Delaware is September 6. The general election is November 6, 2018. All 41 seats in the House and half of the Senate are on the ballot this year. To learn more about your ballot, your polling place, and other voter information, click here. If you have any questions about this session or our legislative priorities for Delaware, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

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!