GAO Jetsetters: Making the Rounds in Washington, D.C., Arizona, and Colorado

Left: GAO Ambassadors Anthony D’Alonzo and David Mead, and GAO Grassroots Senior Manager Mike Sokoloski in front of the US Capitol
Right Top: Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) poses with GAO Senior Associate Lindsey Wright and Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro
Right Bottom: Advocates, including GAO Director Shannon Gahs (second from right), join in NAHC’s March on Washington

BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office (GAO) staff members often say, “Advocacy never sleeps.” For the GAO federal affairs team—Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro and Senior Associate Lindsey Wright—we can also say “Advocacy never stays put.” Over the past quarter, GAO has traveled to Washington, D.C. several times, as well as to Massachusetts, Florida, Indiana, Arizona, and Colorado—among other places.

Most often, GAO travels specifically to meet with legislators in D.C. and around the country to educate them about home care and the benefit it has in keeping millions of America’s seniors and individuals with disabilities independent and in their communities. Most recently, the federal affairs team has also taken to visiting BAYADA’s Home Health service offices to get employees involved in advocacy.

In late February, Dave and Lindsey traveled to D.C.’s Capitol Hill to meet with 11 key congressional members and their staff. On April 2, they traveled back to the Capitol along with two Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors—Anthony D’Alonzo (MHH) and David Mead (NLP)—and other GAO staff—to participate in the National Association for Home Care and Hospice’s (NAHC) annual March on Washington. This year, marchers were asked to educate legislators on two important bills: The Patient Driven Groupings Model bill, which if passed will eliminate reimbursement cuts based on behavioral assumptions, and the Home Health Improvement Planning Act, which if passed will allow non-physician practitioners to sign off on care plans. The visits were successful and resulted in additional cosponsors for both bills.  

GAO’s Dave Totaro and Lindsey Wright visited four Home Health service offices in Arizona and Colorado. Clockwise from top left: GAO and HH office staff in the SVV, FCV, GLF/VGL, and DNF/DNV offices.

The two-person federal affairs team can only make so much headway alone. GAO relies on advocates like you to make sure that all legislators hear our messages loud and clear. Dave and Lindsey have begun traveling to Home Health service offices around the country to tell employees what they can do to get themselves and their clients involved in advocacy, and the importance of doing so.

“As much as I travel to spread our message to our country’s decision makers, it’s important that I also use my time to get our staff involved. Home Health employees and clients are affected by what our legislators and regulators in D.C. make decisions on every day. The more our people mobilize and advocate, the more those decision makers will see how their choices affect real people’s lives,” said Dave Totaro.

During their trip to four Home Health service offices across Arizona and Colorado, Dave and Lindsey focused on Medicare policies, current bills, and how employees can get involved to make a difference. They also listened to each office’s unique challenges in delivering care to clients, and how policy changes could alleviate some of those issues. Thank you to the many BAYADA service offices that welcomed GAO with open arms and open minds, as well as to the employees who signed up to become Ambassadors. To learn about ways you, your staff, and your clients can advocate, contact Lindsey Wright at lwright@bayada.com. We look forward to working with you!

The Heart of Client Advocacy: How You Can Make a Difference

Home care client advocates for his disabled wife and his home health aide
Mike Pollock (left) advocates on behalf of his wife Kathy (center in red) and Kathy’s aide Alma (standing)

Imagine this scene: A woman feels a familiar, nagging stiffness in her lower back as she leans over the edge of the tub to bathe her teenage daughter. Her daughter, who has a significant degenerative muscular disease, sits quietly and securely on a customized bath chair that fits snugly inside the tub. The tub area is decorated with different pieces of adaptive equipment such as a specialty grab bar, floor mat, hand-held shower head, and other items to make the bathing process possible for a person who cannot physically jump in and out of the shower. From start to finish, the entire bathing process takes more than an hour to safely complete.

Whether it is giving a bath, doing a tracheostomy change, starting a gastronomy tube feed, or transporting someone with multiple pieces of medical equipment, families who care for a loved one with a significant medical condition live a vastly different lifestyle than many other families. This lifestyle is not easily understood unless you’ve experienced it.

Legislative advocacy makes a difference

We have learned that when our clients and families talk to our elected officials and the people who make decisions about health care funding and regulations, it makes a difference. We have seen clear evidence across our country that when more people speak up, creating a stronger and louder voice, it is more likely that government-funded insurances—such as Medicaid and Medicare—will adjust funding and regulations to benefit families.

Many of our elected officials have personally not had the experience of bathing an adult child, performing a tracheostomy change, or providing the other types of medical and personal care that are frequently needed in the home. It’s also sometimes forgotten that this care is not just provided once a week or month, but many times a day or week, over years—over a lifetime. The continuous nature of these care needs is what makes home health care services so necessary.

We consult with legislators and insurance officials and ask for increases in our reimbursement rates so we can hire more employees and reduce open shifts for our clients. Our requests often are not approved. However, when the families who actually use the home care services join with us, it makes a big difference.

When clients and families explain why it is important to them not to have open shifts or why their paid caregiver needs a better wage, and share their personal experiences from within the home, it helps these officials understand the need for home care. The people who we petition for increases and better regulations are the same elected officials you vote for, and who are entrusted with serving the best interests of those they represent. This is at the heart of how and why people gathering and joining voices can make a difference. This is the heart of client advocacy.

How can you get involved?

Think about your personal experiences and consider what it’s like to care for a loved one who is in your home or nearby. Let’s unlock those firsthand experiences about the difference a home care nurse, aide, or therapist makes in the care that your loved one needs or receives. Voices of families coming together can create opportunities. Better insurance reimbursement can help us recruit more nurses and aides to fill open shifts. Better wages can mean a more sustainable career for home care workers, which in turn allows more people to remain at home while they receive the care they need.

For more information about how you can join the movement for a better tomorrow for home care, visit our website and sign up to be a Heart for Home Care today.

Home Care Friend Named Appropriations Chairman

Rep. Dean Arp and Lee Dobson

Last month I attended an event honoring State Representative Dean Arp (R-Union).  Rep. Arp serves as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the committee responsible for crafting North Carolina’s state budget. Chairman Arp will be critical in allocating sufficient funds to the Medicaid budget for the increases we are seeking this legislative session. During the event we discussed the importance of getting the rates up prior to Medicaid’s transition to managed care, which is targeted for July 2019.  In addition to supporting our issues in the past, Rep. Arp has been on a home visit and understands the importance of home care in the continuum.

With Sen. Tucker’s recent retirement announcement, it is critical we have allies in the Senate to help carry our message as well. Senator Joyce Krawiec is next in line. To educate her on our issues, we are in the process of identifying a client in her district to host a home visit early in 2018.

 

Saying Goodbye to a Champion

Submitted by Lee Dobson, Area Director, Government Affairs (GAO)

Republican Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County announced that he won’t seek a fifth term in 2018.  Sen. Tucker co-chairs the influential Senate Finance Committee. “I have long believed in term limits for judges and politicians,” he said in a statement to the Charlotte Observer. “After serving four terms in the N.C. Senate, the time has come for me to allow others to step in and serve Union County and our state.”

Our relationship with Sen. Tucker started back in 2011 when Hearts for Home Care Ambassador John Morris and I visited with him in his district office to introduce him to BAYADA and home care.  That visit led to a home visit where he was able to see first-hand the impact home care has on his constituent.  Over the years and as he rose through the ranks, we met with Sen. Tucker numerous times, attended legislative receptions for him, as well as, visited with him at Lobby Days.  His door is always open for BAYADA.  He was instrumental in ensuring the CAP-C rate increase for nursing was put in the Senate’s budget and that it was ultimately passed.  Sen. Tucker was BAYADA’s Legislator of the Year 2016. We thank Sen. Tucker for his commitment and support of our staff and clients.  His vision and leadership will be missed.

LaToya, Jackie, Tanner, and Melissa at Legislative Day with Sen. Tucker receiving the BAYADA Legislator of the Year Award

NJ Legislator Gets Crash Course in High-Tech Equipment

Submitted by Tara Montague, Manager, Client and Family Advocacy, NJ (GAO)

District 6 Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt got quite an education when she visited with 14 year old Mt. Laurel Pediatrics (MLP) client Juan M and his mother, Carmen.  The Assemblywoman stopped by the house at the same time as nurse Danielle Blackwas administering Juan’s many respiratory treatments.  MLP Clinical Manager Crystal Lee explained to Assemblywoman Lampitt the purpose behind each piece of equipment and treatment and how important the routine is to maintaining Juan’s health.  The client’s mother Carmen said she is a single-parent and without having nursing in place she would not be able to keep her son at home with her.  Carmen, Crystal, and Client Services Manager Michelle Moran took turns sharing the difficulties of staffing such a high-tech case and how low reimbursement rates negatively affect clients.  Carmen shared with the Assemblywoman that she is currently looking for a part-time position but is having difficulty due to the fact that her schedule needs to remain flexible to accommodate the nursing schedule and Juan’s various medical needs.  The visit was a great success in enlightening Assemblywoman Lampitt on the needs of some of her most vulnerable constituents.

Photo (left to right): Client Juan M, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, MLP Clinical Manager Crystal Lee

Apply for an Absentee Ballot and Make Your Voice Heard

By Alisa Borovik, Senior Associate, GAO

Elected officials at the local, state, and federal level make political decisions that can have a significant impact on the life of you and your loved ones. The most effective way for you to help elect legislators who support home health care is to get out and vote on Tuesday, November 7.

If you are unable to get to your local polling place due to a disability or the need to care for a family member, you are eligible to vote by absentee ballot.

The instructions for applying for a free absentee ballot vary by state. Please visit the website listed below for your state to find out how to apply.

AZ: http://bit.ly/AZabsenteeballot

CO: http://bit.ly/COabsenteeballot

CT: http://bit.ly/CTabsenteeballot

DE: http://bit.ly/DEabsenteeballot

FL: http://bit.ly/FLabseenteeballot

GA: http://bit.ly/GAabsenteeballot

HI: http://bit.ly/HIabsenteeballot

IN: http://bit.ly/INabsenteeballot

MA: http://bit.ly/MAabsenteeballot

MD: http://bit.ly/MDabsenteeballot

MN: http://bit.ly/MNabsenteeballot

MO: http://bit.ly/MOabsenteeballot

NC: http://bit.ly/NCabsenteeballot

NH: http://bit.ly/NHabsenteeballot

NJ: http://bit.ly/NJabsenteeballot

NY: http://bit.ly/NYabsenteeballot

PA: http://bit.ly/PAabsenteeballot

RI: http://bit.ly/RIabsenteeballot

SC: http://bit.ly/SCabsenteeballot

VA: http://bit.ly/VAabsenteeballot

VT: http://bit.ly/VTabsenteeballot

 

 

A Successful Day for Advocacy in NJ

Submitted by Tara Montague, Manager, Client and Family Advocacy, NJ (GAO)

Last Tuesday, three of our pediatric clients met with their local legislators to show them what home health care is all about.  Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, from District 25, visited the home of 20 year old client Lily K. out of our Morris Plains Pediatrics (PED) office.  Lily’s mom, Emma, and PED Director Christine Rios shared their thoughts on the necessity of home health care services with the Assemblyman, as they explained Lily’s various needs.  Lily just wanted him to play catch with her.

Photo (left to right): Registered Nurse Sylvia, Emma, Lily, Assemblyman Carroll, and Christine Rios

 

The second visit of the day, was to the home of two clients from the Passaic County Pediatrics (PCP) office.  Dawn Moeller, mom to clients Zak and Tyler, invited Senator Gerald Cardinale into their home to share what it’s like to have not one, but two children who are medically fragile and

Photo2 (left to right): Nurse Ryan, Tyler, Senator Cardinale, Rachel, Zak, AnneMarie Desantis and Nurse Denise

require nursing care.  The Senator talked to the boys and then sat down at the kitchen table with Dawn, as well as Clinical Manager Rachel Faber and Client Service Manager AnneMarie Desantis and had an honest conversation about the needs of their family and others who are medically complex.  The Senator even asked Dawn to stay in touch with him by email so he could help.

Successful Family Day Event in PA

Submitted by Rick Hynick, Director, Client and Family Advocacy

On July 27, staff from the Government Affairs Office (GAO): Mike Sokoloski, Laura Ness, Tara Montague, and I coordinated an event at Temple University in Philadelphia entitled, Family Day.  This event brought together CRO families, legislators, field staff and office staff, including some of our ambassadors,  with the goal of bringing attention to the need for an OLTL personal assistance rate increase.  The event was highlighted by a client presentation, legislative presentations, and focus group meetings where stories of how a rate increase would improve quality of care.

 

Toms River NJ Pediatrics Ambassador Arranges Her First Home Visit

Submitted by Tara Montague, Manager, Client and Family Advocacy, NJ (GAO)

As a new Hearts for Home Care Ambassador, Toms River Pediatrics (TRP) Client Services Manager Allison Nulton has been enthusiastically educating legislators on matters relating to her clients.  Earlier this summer, Allison took the initiative and invited state legislator Senator Samuel Thompson to a home visit for one of her clients.  So, on July 26, Allison, TRP Clinical Associate Suzanne McCuen, and the clients’ mom Jocelyn took turns explaining to Senator Thompson about the needs of the children and how important home health care has been in keeping the boys at home.

While Jake (right) is the only one who receives services from BAYADA his brother Ben (left) is also afflicted by the same disease.

Photo of Home Visit

 

 

Using The Interim To Build Stronger Relationships in Maryland

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

The legislature is technically in recess until January, so legislators are unreachable, right?  Not at all!  The Government Affairs Office (GAO) is using this time to get to know our key legislators, those who are likely to become champions for home health care issues because of their committee assignment, position of leadership or personal experiences.  Legislators are less stressed in the “interim” or off-season, and it’s easier to have more in-depth conversations about the issues that impact our clients and the important work we do.  We’re also developing rock-solid research and advocacy materials to make complicated issues easier to understand when these conversations return to session-pace.