Educating Legislators Key to Success in Both States

Curt Knott, Chris Knott, Ali Knott, Kim Hill, Mandy Brady, Shannon Gahs, and Maggie Tracy met with Rep. Kevin Hensley to thank him for his support of home health care.

In both Delaware and Maryland, the legislature is keyed up to see a lot of change in both the leadership of key committees that debate our issues and the rank-and-file membership of those committees. BAYADA, together with our trade associations and other providers, has the potential to use this time of change to educate newly-elected and newly-promoted representatives about the complex and detailed issues within Medicaid reimbursement. The best way we can recruit these leaders to become Champions of Home Health Care is to show it to them in person!

What can You do?

  • Invite a legislator to your office.
    • Whether it is for a competency training, an awards ceremony, a community or recruiting event, legislators will understand our complex issues better when they are exposed to it more. Invite them for a lunchtime Town Hall meeting with your office staff, to talk about the issues that affect your work, or ask them to present your next Heroes Award!
  • Invite a legislator on a Home Visit.
    • Legislators are happy to meet the people they represent and seeing our clients is sometimes the best way to explain how important home care is to their lives.
  • Invite candidates or recently-elected legislators to sit in on training.
    • Whether nurses are gaining new skills or are brushing up on existing ones, showing legislators how much effort we put into training and ensuring the skills of our nurses goes a long way toward helping them understand that home health care encompasses a myriad of different specialties.
  • Join a Political Action Committee (PAC).
    • It’s an election year and running for office is expensive. Candidate committees need contributions to purchase yard signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and to mail post cards to voters. Through our PACs, BAYADA supports those legislators who understand our issues and support our clients and employees with good home health care policy in their bids for re-election! Join the PAC easily today.

These interactions make a huge difference.  A legislator in Delaware, someone who has been a supporter of BAYADA for a long time, told us this year that she wants to know more about our day-to-day. She said other groups who are asking for increases in the state budget call her weekly. She and her associates want to hear about new issues, training, community events, staff meetings, awards and current events in our world.  Being up to date will help her advocate better for our clients and employees in private negotiations!

 

Shannon and Maggie are here to help!  If you are interested in helping to educate a legislator but need some support in planning or preparing for it, contact us.

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!

Increasing Reimbursement Rates for RNs and LPNs in Delaware

At the end of June, 2017, through the efforts of our Ambassadors, our industry partners, our clients, and our legislative champions, the Rate Floor Bill passed the Delaware General Assembly.

This year, in the second year of Delaware’s two-year legislative session, our major legislative goal is to achieve an increase in the Medicaid fee schedule for RN and LPN hourly care. These two rates have stagnated since 2006. We are asking the legislature to update both according to the Consumer Price Index. Doing so would move LPN care from $46.14 to $56.01 and RN care from $51.50 to $62.51 per hour.

Our initial meetings with key members of the Joint Finance Committee have been very positive.  We are working with them to include increased funding for this request in this year’s budget. If successful, our MCO contracts would have to be renegotiated so that reimbursement would be equal to or greater than the new fee schedule amounts.

If you’d like to learn about how you can get more involved in our advocacy efforts, sign up to be a Heart for Home Care!

Plans for Healthcare Overhaul in Delaware

In his State of the State Address last week, Delaware Governor Carney said, “Here’s the bottom line.  We’re spending too much money on healthcare, and we’re not getting the best results.  We need to come to the table – state government and hospitals most of all – and be part of the solution… Now it’s time to make the hard decisions and change the way we deliver healthcare.”

We’ve heard Department of Health and Social Services’ (DHSS) Secretary Odom-Walker discuss similar issues over the last several months. In public hearings across the state, she has discussed health care reform in other states across the country and the need for fundamental changes to the way health care is delivered, how chronic health issues are prevented and treated and how funding can be used to encourage better coordination and more focused care to obtain good health outcomes.

Secretary Odom-Walker and Governor Carney have great faith that Delaware’s small size will enable quick transition to a new, more efficient delivery model. We are closely monitoring these developments and have reminded both the Secretary and the Governor of the importance of home health care in reducing costs and obtaining better outcomes for Delawareans.

If you have any questions about what’s going on in Delaware’s state capitol, let’s chat! Email me at sgahs@bayada.com.

Legislature is in Session!

Both Delaware and Maryland have opened their 2018 legislative sessions and our advocacy work is in full swing. Delaware’s legislature will be open until June 30 in the second year of its two-year legislative session. The Maryland General Assembly is already nearly 20% over—as of today, there are 74 days left in the 90-day session.

Both sessions have been very busy already. Delaware and Maryland Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors and I have been working hard to reach legislators to educate and inform them about what home care means to our clients and families, and about what can be done to address the issues our industry faces every day.

If you’d like to learn about what you can do to take part in our advocacy efforts, sign up to be a Heart for Home Care!