It’s undisputable: Home health aides provide a lifeline to millions
of Americans that need assistance living where they want to be—at home. But low
wages often disincentivize home care workers from staying in the field. The problem lies in Medicaid reimbursement
rates: Home health aides rely largely on state-determined Medicaid
reimbursement rates for their wages, and those rates have stagnated well
below the cost of living—and many states have not addressed this in years.
Luckily, many states have proposed increasing
the mandatory minimum wage. And while many businesses often oppose such
measures—many home care industry leaders
have come out in support of it because they recognize the importance of
aides in helping keep people at home and earning a fair wage for doing so. But
we must ensure that minimum wage increases are done with the recognition that many
home care programs rely on state funding to pay their workers. And if that
funding isn’t increased in tandem with mandatory minimum wage increases, the state could unintentionally be putting
vulnerable residents at risk.
Simply put, if Medicaid reimbursement rates for home care services are not increased at all, or at a rate too low to cover new minimum wage standards, then many home care providers will need to consider whether they can afford to keep their doors open. If providers do decide that they cannot remain sustainable and do decide to forgo providing Medicaid-based home care services, then the real loser is the millions of Americans that rely on that provider to live independently at home. Down the line, this could result in more people who can live at home with help from a home health aide into being forced into nursing homes.
“People want to live at home. And it’s the most cost-effective option for states. Home health aides are the backbone of our industry and we absolutely support wage increases for our workforce, but states need to be thoughtful in their approach to protect the many seniors and individuals with disabilities that rely on home and community-based services. We are working with state legislatures to make sure that they understand the relationship between rates and wages, and the potential risk to vulnerable residents who need home care,” says BAYADA Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro.
So far this year, 18 states have started the year with higher
minimum wages than the year before. If you live in a state where the minimum
wage is set to increase, then you have a unique opportunity to advocate and tell
your legislators about the importance of home care and of paying home health
aides a living wage. Contact email@example.com to find out ways you
can play a role in ensuring that home care is accessible to the many that want
to stay at home, and that home care workers continue to be attracted to a field
that helps them do just that.
BAYADA Home Health Care client and Hearts for Home Care advocate Dimpal Patel shares her view on home health care in an opinion submitted to her local newspaper.
I might sound like your typical local 23-year-old: I recently graduated from UNC Charlotte with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. I absolutely loved living independently on campus, and I love to play games and watch movies. But I am very different from most 23-year-olds you know because I rely on a trach and ventilator in order to survive, and it’s because of my home care nurses that I am able to grow and thrive independently.
My two BAYADA Home Health Care nurses—Chastity and Toni—have been with me for nine and six years each. They are like family to me, and they really are lifesavers. Without them, my parents would not be able to work and keep me at home, and I certainly would not have been able to experience college life. Chastity and Toni not only provide me with the skilled services that I need to survive, but they really are like best friends to me. I can’t imagine what my life would be without them—not only would it be without my two friends, but I’d likely be stuck in the hospital, a nursing home, or rely on my mom or dad to quit their job to take care of me.
My worst fear is that lawmakers cut Medicaid funding like they tried to do in Washington last year. If this happened, not only would I likely lose my nurses, but I’d be at risk of having to move into a nursing home. As someone who has experienced living independently and how it has allowed me to earn a degree and contribute to society, I ask that our state and federal legislators be mindful of what funding and service cuts can mean—not only to the state’s financially needy or to the elderly—but to 23-year-olds like me who want to continue living a full life.
During session, Maryland-National Capital Homecare Association selected a new Executive Director. Dawn Seek, LPN, a longtime board member with a career in many aspects of home health care and durable medical equipment, was hired as the association’s sole full-time employee. She met with Dave Totaro and Shannon Gahs from the BAYADA Government Affairs Office (GAO) team last week to discuss her vision for the association and plans to work together in the coming year. Her plans include adding Maryland’s voice to the national conversation of the future of home health care, partnering with other organizations that serve our clients and employees in Maryland, building more substantive committees and planning meetings that have more immediately-actionable information for members.
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.