The facts are clear: Home care is less expensive than hospital or other institutional care. Plus, it enables medically complex children and adults to remain at home amongst their loved ones. But because the State of South Carolina has not increased reimbursement rates for skilled nursing home care services since 2008, families are finding it increasingly harder to access the skilled, high quality care that they need to stay as independent as possible in their communities.
State funding for home care has not been increased in more than a decade. At the same time, hospitals and other facilities have been steadily able to increase wages. Even more so, nurses can make more in home care in surrounding states. Now, home care providers find that they can compete for less than a quarter of all the nurses available in South Carolina. When agencies face such recruitment and retention struggles, home care recipients and their families suffer.
When there are less home care nurses available, families find that they experience missed shifts, which can not only create undue stress and chaos as loved ones must miss work, lose out on sleep, and forego other necessary activities—but it also puts the client in danger. For those who need skilled nursing care, missed shifts can mean dangerous consequences, including trips to the ER and unnecessary hospitalizations.
Even more so, many major home care providers have already left South Carolina because of the low funding for home care. Stagnant rates that are more than a decade old make keeping their doors open unsustainable. As more and more agencies leave the state, the harder it is for families to access care. Simply put, if the State does not take action to increase funding for home care, South Carolina’s most medically complex and vulnerable families will have few options for care.
South Carolina’s concerned families are making their voices heard: They are reaching out to their legislators and media to share their message: Increase funding for home health care so that families can access the high quality, reliable care that they need to be where they want to be: At home.
GAO and four South Carolina service offices have been busy hosting lawmakers in home visits throughout the state. These visits show our state’s decision-makers the importance of home care, the impact it has on their constituents and all South Carolinians, and remind them to remember our stories and our clients when they vote on issues that affect the home care industry!
Upstate Pediatric Office (USP) Leads the Way for South Carolina Home Visits by Hosting Rep. Garry Smith in Pediatric Home Visit
The Upstate Pediatric Office (USP) led the way with South Carolina’s first home visit with Representative Garry Smith in Greenville. USP and Rep. Smith visited 20-month-old pediatric client Emma who had recently been discharged from her Medicaid waiver services. Luckily, after multiple hospitalizations that occurred during her discharge, she received reauthorization and was able to get her services back, which have since kept her healthy and out of the hospital. This home visit enabled Rep. Smith to see just how powerful and important these services are in keeping families together safely at home. Since his visit, South Carolina’s general assembly voted to increase the Children’s Personal Care reimbursement rate for Home Health Aide Waiver.
USP Client Services Manager Kelsey Harris, stated “It was so cool to have a legislator take time out of his schedule to see our processes in the office and how they lay the framework for the field employees and the care they provide. His investment of time in learning about our client and the difficulties the family faces is vital to the continued growth and success of homecare in South Carolina!”
Columbia Adult Nursing Office (COA) Hosts Impactful Visit with Representative Chip Huggins
The Columbia Adult Nursing Office (COA) recently hosted South Carolina’s second home visit with Representative Chip Huggins. GAO joined COA staff and the representative in a visit to client Alexis A., a 20-year-old anoxic brain injury client, and her parents in their Chapin home.
Alexis’s mother shared with Rep. Huggins the challenges she has had with the process of getting in-home care for her daughter. She stated, “This has been the most difficult process. I get many different answers and constantly get pushed around from one person to the next. I feel it would be in the state’s best interest to streamline the process for families like ours who don’t have the time to make multiple calls a day. I take care of Alexis 90 hours a week–at times I don’t even sleep because of her skilled needs. I don’t just advocate for higher rates for Alexis, but for our nursing teams, and for parents that experience a similar situation now or in the future.”
Impacted by his visit, Rep. Huggins stated, “I will do whatever I can to assist you and Alexis. That is what I’m here for.” Since the visit GAO has set up a meeting for August 14, 2018 to discuss the opportunities to improve the state’s home care waivers.
Upstate Adult Nursing Office (USC) Visits Vent Waiver Client with Senator Tom Corbin
The Upstate Adult Nursing Office (USC) hosted the third legislative home visit in Spartanburg. This visit was especially unique as Senator Tom Corbin and BAYADA adult nursing client Jeffrey B. bonded over several mutual connections. Senator Corbin attends church with a family Jeffrey had previously worked with. Additionally, they both also have a love for the Clemson Tigers and enjoy stories about the history of their community. Senator Corbin spoke with Jeffrey’s wife, Vonda Kay, about her challenges receiving home care services for Jeffrey. Vonda Kay explained how she cares for her husband 129 hours a week because he receives a limited 39 hours of private duty nursing.
She also shared with Senator Corbin the difficultly of obtaining reliable care—of the list of 15 providers that Jeffrey’s case manager gave her, BAYADA was the only agency that called her back. Senator Corbin, who has a son with autism, understands the struggles our families go through due to the low reimbursement. He stated, “Wow, when do you get rest? I understand home care is a cost savings to the state, and I’m willing to do whatever I can to support you and Jeffrey. I’m shocked at how much you have had to go through. I know we can work together to make some changes.”
GAO is planning to meet with Senator Corbin at the end of August to discuss further opportunities to assist our Vent Waiver clients.
Rock Hill Skilled Nursing Office (ROC) Host Home Visit with Representative Richard Yow
Our Rock Hill Skilled Nursing team (ROC) recently hosted Representative Richard Yow in a home visit with client Mitchell H. Mitchell is a 29-year-old who was in an automobile accident at the age of 23. At the time of the accident he had a 4- year old son. His son, Allen–now age 10–is a vibrant and active young boy who is very hands-on with his dad’s care. Having home care for Mitchell is not only important for his health, but also enables him to see his son grow up. Mitchell’s mom, who is his primary caregiver and biggest advocate, states, “Allen is Mitchell’s only motivation to keep moving forward. He wants to see his son grow, attend sports events, and just be there for him. Without Allen and being able to see him daily, he wouldn’t be with us today.”
Rep. Yow also shared stories of his own personal challenges he has with working with resources in the state. His father was in an automobile accident as well a few years ago, and the family continues to fight for his healthcare needs. Rep. Yow stated, “I know how challenging and stressful it can be. I also know I will do whatever I can to help you and Mitchell.”
Home visits like these really give elected officials a better understanding of how their decisions on key issues like Medicaid impact South Carolinians who are seeking to remain safely at home with their families. To find out ways in which you can participate in a home visit with a local legislator, or other ways you can advocate, email email@example.com.