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.

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!

States Struggle to Recruit and Retain In-Home Nurses Due to Low Reimbursement Rates… But Advocacy Can Help

Home health care companies around the country struggle to recruit and retain enough qualified workers to support the growing number of children, adults and seniors that want to be cared for in their own homes. Recruitment and retention issues stem from a number of reasons, including the nationwide nursing shortage, low US unemployment rates, and inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates that leave home care providers in a position where their wages cannot compete with those of other settings and industries.

BAYADA Home Health Care was recently featured in a Wall Street Journal article for the company’s efforts in solving for this by recruiting nurses from Puerto Rico to fill open nursing positions in Minneapolis. The island’s unemployment rate, currently at 10.8% is much higher than that of Minneapolis, which is currently listed at 2.4%.

A 2.4% unemployment rate is low even compared to the US rate, which is currently at a 17-year low of 4.1%. This low unemployment rate is compounded by the fact that in many states, Medicaid reimbursement rates are too low for home care providers to be able to recruit and retain workers, who can be paid a higher wage in other settings, like hospitals, and industries, like fast food and retail.

And it doesn’t end with a lack of workers for home care providers. This lack of caregivers can lead to an access to care issue in which individuals who can be cared for at home are left with no option but to receive care in a hospital or institution. Finding qualified caregivers is often cited as home care providers’ top challenge, and future estimates show that demand for in-home care will continue to grow due to the aging of baby boomers at alarming speeds.

What can you do to help? Share your voice. Reimbursement rate review and adjustment decisions are generally made in state capitols when legislators determine that such a need exists. This need must be communicated to legislators so that they understand the pressing nature of the issue and what could happen to the state’s Medicaid population if the issue is not addressed.

We can help you reach your legislators to let them know what increased reimbursement rates mean for you and your community. And if you would like to make an even bigger impact, consider meeting your lawmakers in-person at our Lobby Day. We take care of the scheduling and preparations- all you need to do is show up and share your voice. Upcoming Lobby Days are as follows:

Minneapolis, Minnesota: 3/6/18
Dover, Delaware: 3/14/18
Columbus, South Carolina: 4/4/18
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: 5/22/18
Raleigh, North Carolina: 5/30/18
New Jersey: District office visits 4/20-5/4/18
Maryland: TBD

Contact Rick Hynick to find out what you can do to advocate, whether it be sharing your personal story, contacting your legislators, or participating in an upcoming state Lobby Day!

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!

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!

Fifth Annual NJ BAYADA Champion Awards Ceremony Connects with Purpose

Dave Totaro, Champions Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, Senator-elect Declan O’Scanlon, Lieutenant Governor-elect Sheila Oliver, and Louise Lindenmeier

In December at the BAYADA Home Health Care Champion Awards we reflected on a year of many victories and looked ahead to a new year with new challenges. Speakers, awardees and nearly 100 guests celebrated the successful increase of NJ’s fee-for-service rate for personal care assistants to $19 per hour. We also acknowledged employees’, clients’ and home care industry friends’ commitment to advocacy. These efforts led to the passage of A320/S1018, which was signed by Governor Christie earlier this year. Effective this July, A320/S1018 requires Managed Medicaid reimbursement rates for home health aide services to be at or above the state’s fee-for-service rate.

An inspirational highlight of the night, those in attendance were moved by Dana Insley’s touching speech. Dana is the mother of a young client who had a difficult start to life. Dana’s daughter was placed in foster care before being adopted by the Insley family. Dana spoke of the blessing home care has been in her family’s life and discussed the significant improvements her daughter has made with the support of her BAYADA nurses.

The evening’s honorees, Lieutenant Governor-elect Sheila Oliver, Senator-elect Declan O’Scanlon, and Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz were visibly moved by Dana’s remarks and reiterated their support for home care during their acceptance remarks.

Also honored at the ceremony was Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, who represents New Jersey’s 4th District, which encompasses the Insley family’s home. Assemblyman Moriarty had visited the Insleys home in the past and was able to glean a full and meaningful understanding of the day-to-day life of a child receiving home care.

After a heartfelt evening that reminded everyone of our purpose and why we do what we do, Chief Government Affairs Officer David Totaro took the stage to remind all of those in attendance of the importance of advocacy and that, in addition to words, action is needed. He noted the huge impact of New Jersey advocates, who sent nearly one-quarter of all messages directed to federal legislators this summer from BAYADA’s network during the health care reform debate. Thank You for your commitment to advocacy.

Together with our Champions, we can make a meaningful difference to the lives of our clients and BAYADA caregivers. If you would like to get more involved in New Jersey’s advocacy program, sign up to become a Heart for Home Care Advocate.

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.

Together We Get Results

Speaker Tim Moore, Vickie Deyton, Amber Mitchell, and Rep. Kelly Hastings at a legislative event

Legislative successes, like the NC Medicaid rate increase for nursing in 2015 and 2016 and the home health aide increase this past year, don’t magically happen.  Legislative successes start with an identified need — low Medicaid rates made it impossible to pay people what they are worth — and end with legislators supporting jobs in the community and keeping families together by investing in home health care.  Every step along the way our Hearts for Home Care Advocates carried our unified message to decision-makers. Our cumulative actions over the years, including home and district visits, legislative round tables with lawmakers, responding to calls to action, attending lobby days, etc., made all the difference.  Individually and collectively our shared voices got results.  Join us to be a Heart for Home Care Advocate. 

Building Relationships with Federal Legislators and Community Partners in Delaware

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

Wilmington (WIL) Director and Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Kim Roman and I joined the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter for coffee with Senator Tom Carper (D-DE).  Healthcare issues, including funding for Medicare and eligibility for Medicaid, are increasingly in the federal spotlight and up for debate in Congress.  It is important to build relationships with our federal legislators and to make sure they know how important home health care is in their states!

 

PA Client Visit to Discuss BAYADA’s Advocacy Program

Submitted by Rick Hynick, Director, Client and Family Advocacy (GAO)

 On Friday, October 20, Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro and I met with adult Home Health Aide client, William Bezdziecki at his home near Wilkes Barre to discuss the BAYADA Hearts for Home Care program and different client advocacy opportunities.  Also, present at the meeting were William’s parents, Jack and Mary Lou Bezdziecki, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS) Clinical Manager Susan Youells, WBS CSM Kristie Spinello and Certified Nursing Assistant Gerald Stevenson.