Delaware Sets Grassroots Advocacy Records in 2019!

More than 50 home care employees, clients, and family members attended the DE Association for Home and Community Care Legislative Day!

Delaware Ambassadors and employees have set participation records at two key annual advocacy events this year—The Delaware Association for Home and Community Care (DAHCC) Legislative Day and our annual testimony in front of Delaware’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC).

The first, the Delaware Association for Home and Community Care (DAHCC) Legislative Day on March 13, had a record attendance of more than 50 attendees! 41 registered for the event, which would have been a record itself, but the larger-than-expected turnout was an impressive surprise. Seven providers, including BAYADA, were represented, and the crowd included six families advocating for themselves and their nurses. Everyone wore their own company’s branded gear but united behind Hearts for Home Care buttons that proclaimed, “Home Health Care Matters to Me.” Legislators heard our message was heard loud and clear.

BAYADA employees made their voices heard in front of the DE Joint Finance Committee

In another first for Delaware, two legislators spoke in support of a large rate increase for Delaware’s home care RNs and LPNs at the DAHCC Day Press Conference. To make it even better, the two were none other than the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Nicole Poore, and the House Majority Leader, Representative Valerie Longhurst. Both spoke passionately about the importance of home care in our communities and the need to increase reimbursement to ensure that this vital care is available to those who rely on it.  They were joined in speaking by the Executive Director of DAHCC, Jean Mullin, and BAYADA client Haley Shiber.

A week later, on March 20, Delaware advocates broke another record when 15 members of our community testified before the powerful Joint Finance Committee (JFC) in support of increasing Medicaid home care reimbursement rates. Led by Jean Mullin, participants included Torie Carter, Jenny Scott, Mandy Brady, Judeth Smith, Ali Knott, Danielle Myers, Shannon Gahs, Dave Totaroand representatives from Epic/Aveanna and Maxim/Aveanna.  Client Haley Shiber was unable to attend in person but sent a powerful testimony video to the JFC members before the hearing. The Joint Finance Committee hears budget requests from all state agencies and testimony from the public before making an annual budget recommendation to the full General Assembly. The General Assembly frequently follows the majority of those recommendations. Members of the committee told BAYADA in the days following the hearing that they had never before seen such a large contingent testifying on a single issue!

The industry-wide coalition led by BAYADA and DAHCC is pushing the Delaware legislature for a 21% increase in the Medicaid home care RN and LPN rates, which would impact our Skilled Nursing practices—Pediatrics and Adult Nursing. Because of the home care Rate Floor passed two years ago mandating that Medicaid MCOs pay no less than Medicaid fee-for-service, these new higher rates would have to be paid not only for “straight Medicaid” hours but also those funded by managed care in Delaware. These two rates currently remain at their 2006 levels, harming our ability to recruit and retain the highly-skilled RNs and LPNs that are so important to the lives and welfare of our clients.

Thank you to our advocates who turned out and made sure that Delaware’s decision makers know that we are here to advocate on behalf of our staff and clients, and that home care makes a difference in the lives of so many Delawareans!

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!