Across the Country, Parents and Home Care Supporters Advocate for Better Wages for Caregivers

We know the struggles families can face with home care: The call-outs and missed shifts, the lack of sleep, the caregivers who are like family but can’t afford to make their own ends meet, and the frustration that comes when you or your loved one can’t access the care that is deemed medically necessary. We also know the value and impact that sharing our voices has.

Recently, home care advocates have made the news for their efforts across the country. Specifically, on December 28, the Washington Post covered the impact that providers and parents are having in driving public awareness of the struggles that Marylanders and Virginians are having in accessing the skilled nursing home care their families need.

Washington Post reporter Tara Bahrampour points to low reimbursement rates in both states as the major issue contributing to families’ struggles—

“The reason lies in a stark state-by-state discrepancy in the pay in-home nurses receive through Medicaid. Maryland and Virginia have set reimbursement rates significantly lower than surrounding jurisdictions…As a result, licensed practical nurses [LPNs] are finding more lucrative positions out of state or at hospitals or other care institutions that pay more, leaving many homebound Medicaid patients without services.”

Hearts for Home Care has been leading the charge in Maryland, where a coalition of home care clients, parents, providers, and other advocates are pushing for a 25 percent increase for skilled home nursing services. Advocates say that this increase—half of which would have to come from state coffers—would serve to alleviate families’ inability to access care an average of 17 percent of the time, as reported by the state’s Department of Health. Hearts for Home Care advocate and BAYADA Home Health Care director Shannon Gahs says:

“Maryland is failing its citizens who have significant medical disabilities. Failing to provide care 17 percent of the time not only creates a dangerous situation for the person who relies on that care—it harms his or her family. Parents are calling out of work and losing the sleep they need to stay healthy to support their family. They’re doing everything they can to keep their family members safe, but this is not how it is supposed to be. We have to do better.”

In comparison, neighboring Delaware found that shifts are missed 7 percent of the time. There, the state reimburses providers at a rate approximately 30 percent higher for LPN home care services.

In California, Governor Jerry Brown recently proposed a whopping 50 percent wage increase for home care nurses—a move that advocates have pushed for over the past several years. As with families across the country, Californians who require skilled nursing home care have been struggling to get nursing care for their loved ones. Advocates report that under Medi-Cal—the state’s health care system for low income and disabled Californians—rates have not been addressed in 18 years.

While both the Maryland and California proposals are still pending, home care advocates have been successful in driving public and legislative awareness of low reimbursement rates and the impact on families’ access across the country in recent years. Most recently, the home care industry has seen reimbursement rate increases in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and New Jersey among other states. It starts with educating legislators through advocacy via any number of channels: Traditional and social media, letters, phone calls, meetings, and more.

While advocacy can seem like an intimidating activity to many who do not yet engage in it, it’s important that we share our advocacy wins with the home care and health care community at-large. As illustrated in recent news, when we band together to leverage our voices in unison, big changes can happen. It’s important to take that first step and make your message heard on behalf of the millions of Americans that rely on home care.

To learn more about how you can engage in home care advocacy, visit www.heartsforhomecare.com or email advocacy@bayada.com today.

Hundreds of Home Care Advocates Attend Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s Annual Advocacy Day

Home care employees, clients, and families participate in Advocacy Day in Harrisburg, PA

Last Tuesday, May 22, more than 200 home care employees, clients, and clients’ family members came together with the Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA) for their annual Advocacy Day in Harrisburg, PA. Advocates came from a variety of agencies and backgrounds across the state to discuss the importance of home care with their legislators.

Advocates met with more than 200 legislators to educate them on the need for deemed eligibility to allow more of Pennsylvania’s seniors to remain at home, increasing pay for home care workers, and the importance of maintaining strict hiring standards within the home care industry. Advocates used their passion and first-hand experience to demonstrate the necessity of these initiatives to legislators and made lasting impressions through their stories.

And advocates’ hard work paid off! During PHA’s press conference, Rep. Stan Saylor, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, stated that he would support a rate increase for Medicaid personal assistance services (PAS). Additionally, PHA has been in touch with staff from the Senate Appropriations and Health Committees about bringing deemed eligibility legislation to the Senate floor for a vote.

Advocacy is a vital part of a democracy and allows for legislators to hear about issues their constituents routinely face from a different perspective. Through BAYADA Home Health Care’s Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Program, BAYADA employees are educated on the issues facing their states, strategies to advocate effectively for home care staff and clients, and the tools necessary to make a lasting impression.

Advocacy is just another way of ensuring the highest quality care is provided to those who need it. Below, please find quotes from some of those who attended this year’s Advocacy Day on why they chose to participate, as well as a reaction from Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Bullock.

 “When I was approached several years ago to be a Hearts for Home Care Ambassador, I was hesitant. There is so much about politics I don’t understand, but what I do believe in is what we do at BAYADA! We have such an amazing opportunity to be the voices for those who don’t have them and if we believe in what we are speaking too, it’s really not that hard! Advocacy, to me, just means I’m standing up for what I believe in and sharing it with those who have the ability to make change.” –PA Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Christine Detweiler

“Advocacy in home care is really about our government representatives seeing the faces and hearing the voices of the people. These interactions help legislaotrs know what our needs are so they can do their best to help my family and the many other families who need a nurse or an aide at home.” –Amy Zemek, Mother of client Alexa D.

“What I found special about attending Advocacy Day in Harrisburg was that the real people we serve every day did not need to rely on anyone else to tell their story. They were allowed to advocate for themselves. We just need to listen more and allow their powerful story to speak loud and clear. Advocacy Days allow those we serve the opportunity to tell their powerful story and for our elected officials to hear and listen to their stories, because those we serve can often advocate for themselves far better than we can.” –Home Care employee Jarod Champeaux

“What is advocacy to me? Advocacy is the look on the faces of the people we serve, the love, the commitment, and the lives we change by the amazing work that we do!” -PA Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Candice Proctor

“Affordable healthcare is a top priority of mine and is critical in safeguarding the well-being of our communities. I share BAYADA’s Home Health Care’s passion and devotion to ensuring anyone who qualifies for home care service receives the proper treatment they need and deserve. I thank them along with the many other advocates for traveling all of the way to Harrisburg to fight for our cause. Together, we can instill change, protect families and achieve our goals.” –State Representative Donna Bullock, 195th District

Thank you to the many home care employees, clients, and families that participated in Advocacy Day!

Client & Family Stories: Meet Tara Montague

Tara is an advocate for her family, and yours.

NJ Assemblywoman Carol Murphy with home care advocate Tara and daughter Mary, who has SMA
NJ Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (right) learned about the benefits of home care when she visited Mary and Tara at their home.

Last summer, as lawmakers in Washington, DC debated health care reform, Tara Montague had cause for concern. The proposed legislation included significant cuts to Medicaid, which for Tara and her family, could have been disastrous.

Tara and her husband, Jim, rely on home care nursing for their daughter Mary, 20, who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). They know that many families turn to Medicaid to cover the cost of home care and feel fortunate to have private insurance for Mary’s nurses. However, they depend on Medicaid for Mary’s prescriptions and medical equipment, which total in the thousands each month.

“Mary is on numerous medications, and her medical equipment includes a ventilator, oxygen, a wheelchair and hospital bed, feeding pump supplies, a nebulizer, pulse oximeter machine, and more,” said Tara. “Without Medicaid, I don’t know what we’d do, and that’s why I fight so hard to get Mary the benefits she needs.”

Giving families a voice

As a parent of a child with special needs, Tara can understand and empathize with our clients’ daily struggles because she lives it, every day. Last year, she joined BAYADA’s Government Affairs office as manager of client and family advocacy. Here, she continues to fight for Mary, and for every pediatric and adult client who depends on home health care to live with comfort, independence, and dignity.

“Last summer I worked with BAYADA clients who were willing to share their stories with federal legislators to help prevent the Medicaid cuts,” said Tara. “As I continue to grow in this new role, I hope to encourage more and more families to speak up, to have a voice, and to know that they can make a huge difference in the legislative process.”

Getting involved is quick and easy

Tara knows all too well that for clients and families, the biggest obstacle to getting involved is time. That’s why she encourages them to register with BAYADA’s Hearts for Home Care Advocacy Center at heartsforhomecare.com.

We are not looking for a huge time commitment, it’s whatever they feel comfortable with doing,” she said.

The mission of Hearts for Home Care is to be a voice for BAYADA employees, clients, and their families. Through education, advocacy, research, and community service, BAYADA advocates for policies that support the highest quality of home health care services. The online advocacy center keeps clients and families informed about legislative issues at the state and federal level that can impact the home health care industry, and their access to care.

Advocacy can be a simple as taking five minutes to log onto the Hearts for Home Care Advocacy Center website and sending a pre-written email to local, state, and federal legislators. If clients and families want to do more, they can share their stories on the Hearts for Home Care Advocacy Center website; attend a lobby day at their state capital, a legislative round table, or a town hall; they can visit a legislator’s office; or invite a legislator into their home to see, first hand, how home health care professionals help improve lives.

Connecting with families and sharing stories

Tara has a degree in political science and extensive experience in marketing. In her previous role as a community liaison with a BAYADA Pediatrics office in New Jersey, she educated physicians about home health care, started a parent support group, coordinated a family resource fair, and helped families navigate through insurance challenges.

In her new role she hopes to develop training materials and tools for clients and families who want to become more active in advocacy efforts. But even more, she is looking forward to getting to know clients and families from across the country, and helping to share their stories – just like Mary’s.

To learn more about Hearts for Home Care, how you can get involved with advocacy, or how you can share your story, contact Tara at tmontague@bayada.com.

NJ GAO 2017 Year in Review

As I reflect on 2017 and what we have accomplished, the first thing that comes to mind is Thank You. Thank you for your support, your engagement and your advocacy efforts — all of which made a difference in the lives of our clients, families and employees.

2017 was the “Year of Client Advocacy and Engagement.” Clients and families engaged lawmakers and the community at-large through home visits, family support group meetings, and phone calls and meetings with lawmakers in Trenton. These efforts ensured that our aides, nurses, and the importance of home care remained top of mind to New Jersey representatives and senators.

2017 was successful in many ways and set us up for even bigger wins in 2018. Below, please find a summary of 2017’s priorities and accomplishments:

• The Managed Medicaid Rate Floor bill was signed into law, effective July 1, 2018. The new law mandates a 100% pass-through of increased reimbursement to aides. In 2018 we will introduce a new bill which will be more reflective of a competitive wage environment and will mirror the original bill with no mandated pass-through.

• The Personal Care Assistant (PCA) fee-for-service rate was raised from $18.00 per hour to $19.00 per hour through a budget resolution, effective July 1, 2017.

• We successfully lobbied against Governor Christie’s intent to end the NJ/PA Reciprocity Tax agreement. This accomplishment saved our employees and BAYADA thousands of dollars in taxes.

• In July, the Private Duty Nursing (PDN) bill was introduced. This bill’s aim is to raise the PDN reimbursement rate by $10 per hour for RNs and LPNs. While the bill did not ultimately pass the state legislature in 2017, it brought awareness to the need for higher reimbursement rates within the program. We will continue to pursue this bill’s passage as a major goal for 2018.

• In conjunction with NJ’s Home Care Association, we successfully lobbied for legislation that permits physical therapy aides to practice in clients’ homes as long as the aides are supervised by a licensed physical therapist every two weeks.

• The BAYADA Champion Awards were held in December. This year we honored Lieutenant Governor-elect Sheila Oliver, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty and Senator-elect Declan O’Scanlon for their unwavering support of home care.

• BAYADA hosted a fundraiser for Senator-elect Troy Singleton, raising over $13,000 for his election fund.

• BAYADA reviewed and submitted comments to the state regarding the new 10:60 home care regulations.

Looking ahead to 2018, we will be working with Governor-elect Murphy and NJ legislators new and old to continue to advance home care and community-based services for our state’s neediest populations. GAO seeks to push for new laws to improve reimbursement rates within the PDN program, introduce legislation to provide technical changes to the current PCA managed care law, pursue minimum wage law changes, address parking challenges for our nurses and, of course, continue to advocate on behalf of our employees, clients and their families.

Cheers to an exciting year ahead! If you would like to get more involved in New Jersey’s advocacy program, sign up to become a Heart for Home Care Advocate.