Thank You for Keeping Me Home: A Message from an Advocate

North Carolina advocate Ari A. during a trip to Washington, D.C.

We often think of advocacy as sharing our stories, our challenges, and asking for legislative support in addressing those challenges. But advocacy is much more multi-faceted: It’s about building relationships by cultivating legislative connections so that they become home care supporters for life, and it’s certainly about saying Thank You when the support pays off by resulting in a law or policy that is beneficial to the individual and to the home care community at-large.

Below, find a Thank You note written by North Carolina home care recipient and Hearts for Home Care advocate Ari A. Ari has been able to thrive and stay independent at home because of the skilled nursing services he receives under North Carolina’s Medicaid program. Recently, he wrote to Medicaid staff to thank them for resolving a critical issue that enabled him to continue these services. Medicaid staff are committed to improving health and well-being of North Carolinians, and their transactions are often behind the scenes and receive little recognition. Hearts for Home Care applauds Medicaid staff across the country for their commitment to helping individuals stay at home, and we applaud Ari for his sincere thankfulness of their work.

To All I Work with in NC DHHS and Medicaid,

Some of you I’ve known for years and some a short time. Through it all, the one and most important factor that has been consistent has been the capacity to care. Time and time again over the years I have had to get battle ready in order to keep my life-saving services. However, instead having to scale cold-hard hearts, impenetrable like a fortress, you invited me into your hearts. You consistently agreed to provide for my intensive care in my home instead of a medical facility; which essentially would have been leaving me out in the cold to die. Instead of fighting me you have been my allies, always being there for me when I needed you the most.

These truths became ever more apparent a couple weeks ago. For the past two years, my mom and I have been getting things ready to transfer my medications, physical therapy, and supplies to Medicare without de-stabilizing my PDN services under Medicaid. It has been a mind numbing, complicated process. We have been hyper-vigilant not to miss any details that could easily be overlooked. We recently turned in sensitive paperwork to the Department of Social Services (DSS) well before the deadline. On November 30 we spoke with the Director of Policy and Procedures for Medicaid Sandy Terrell about how to safeguard my PDN even more during the transition. Ms. Terrell told Saunja Wilson from PDN to double check if everything was in order by the end of the month. Thank God, Ms. Wilson decided to check right away. The sensitive paperwork we emailed to DSS was present, but hadn’t been pulled up yet even though my caseworker had the paperwork in her email. One of the Supervisors at DSS had also confirmed that we had it turned in. We were told email or fax was equally acceptable for documentation.

The breakdown was that this particular caseworker did not use her email for business and preferred to have documents faxed to her. My caseworker tried to alleviate a little bit of pressure off my mom and I by telling us to ignore the ‘Termination of Medicaid Services’ notice in the mail. Yet, the absolute terror that rose up from the pits of our stomachs when we received the notice was totally indescribable! Despite the paperwork being directly faxed to my caseworker, we still waited for the approval. Thankfully over a week later, the situation was taken over by one of the Supervisors at DSS. She rose to the occasion and kindly brought the matter to a close so that my mom and I could peacefully go on with our lives.

Frighteningly, the bottom line is that I am not exaggerating when I say my life would have been ‘Terminated’ if Saunja Wilson from PDN hadn’t been ‘quick on the draw’ to find the error. If Ms. Wilson had waited to check just two or three days later, I wouldn’t have been able to disregard the Termination notice and my life would have been ruined! I say again, Thank God for my champions in NC government. You always rises up out of the mist to do a heroic save! This is what the rest of America could be and should be as far as healthcare policy.

Frighteningly, the bottom line is that I am not exaggerating when I say my life would have been ‘Terminated’ if Saunja Wilson from PDN hadn’t been ‘quick on the draw’ to find the error. If Ms. Wilson had waited to check just two or three days later, I wouldn’t have been able to disregard the Termination notice and my life would have been ruined! I say again, Thank God for my champions in NC government. You always rises up out of the mist to do a heroic save! This is what the rest of America could be and should be as far as healthcare policy.

All of you keep doing a spectacular job and always keep your focus on the people you serve instead of the numbers, especially as NC transitions to Managed Care. If you ever need my help just let me know anytime!

Sincerely,

Ari A. Charlotte, NC

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!

FED: Home Health to See Rate Decrease in January 2020. What Can You Do?

CMS recently finalized calendar year 2019 and 2020 payment changes for home health agencies. The new payment model, also known as the Patient Driven Groupings Model (PDGM), was finalized on October 31, 2018. There is some good news: We will see Medicare payments increase by 2.2%–or $420 million–based on finalized policies this year. The reimbursement rate increase is the first the home health industry has received in a decade. Unfortunately, the final rule addresses that home health will see a decrease of payments by 6.42% based on the use of “behavioral assumptions” which will take effect January 2020.

Luckily Congress is working with the industry and has introduced corrective legislation into the House and Senate that counteracts this measure. Several of our legislative champions, including Vern Buchanan (R-FL), sponsored one of the three bills introduced, each of which would serve to counteract the “behavioral assumptions” by requiring Medicare to implement adjustments to reimbursement rates only after improper behavioral actions by home health agencies are actually observed affecting Medicate spending rather than assuming those improper activities will occur. While this is a great first step, we need more legislative support to ensure that one of these bills crosses the finish line.

How can you help? The Government Affairs Office (GAO) has been working diligently to meet with key legislators and introduce them to our issues and those of our staff and clients, but we can’t do it alone. BAYADA has been asked to take the lead of home visits for our industry and we need office staff to help us communicate the importance of home care and proper Medicare reimbursement for our services.

To join in our advocacy efforts, please consider meeting with your federal Congressman or Senator through an office visit or home visit. Contact GAO Federal Associate Lindsey Wright today to learn more and to coordinate. The Federal Affairs team has a busy first month of the year and will be making visits to Home Health offices the year to hear what is most important in your office and how we can help.

Upcoming Events

Date Event Location
January 17 Home Health Office Visits CO
January 21-23 Home Health Office Visits AZ
January 24 NHPCO/HAN Board Meeting Phoenix, AZ
January 27-29 Home Care 100 Phoenix, AZ
January 30 HCAOA Board Meeting Tucson, AZ
February 7 PMHC Board Meeting Washington D.C.

BAYADA Chief Government Affairs Officer Successfully Delivers MLTSS Implementation Presentation to MACPAC

Dave Totaro served as a panelist to inform Commissioners about lessons learned from Managed Care and MLTSS implementation in BAYADA states.

Last Thursday BAYADA Home Health Care’s Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro served as a panelist during the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission’s (MACPAC) public meeting in Washington, DC. This opportunity was especially unique and important for BAYADA because MACPAC serves to provide policy and data analysis and make recommendations to Congress, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the states on a wide array of issues affecting Medicaid and CHIP. We are optimistic that Dave’s insights will help shape the Commission’s future recommendations on state and federal Managed Care and MLTSS policies and procedures.

MACPAC extended the invitation to Dave to serve as the panel’s provider representative due to BAYADA’s experience with Managed Long Term Services and Supports (MLTSS) and managed care implementation across a number of states. Dave accepted the opportunity and successfully delivered his presentation in front of the 17-person Commission and a public audience, which included a number of congressional staffers and CMS representatives.

Aside from Dave, participating panelists were Dennis Heaphy, a MLTSS beneficiary and expert on public health from Massachusetts’s Disability Policy Consortium, and Michelle Bentzien-Purrington, Vice President of MLTSS and Duals Integration at Molina Healthcare. Dave’s presentation focused on BAYADA’s experience in implementing Managed Care across multiple states, particularly the lessons learned that can translate to better implementation in future states looking toward managed care and MLTSS.

tactics for Managed Care Long Term Services and Supports MTLSS implementation success

Dave presented MLTSS implementation as a three-legged stool: Adequate rates, state supports, and federal process changes must all be in place for a successful rollout. Should one of the legs be faulty, then the entire operation is set to fail. The presentation described for the Commission:

  • The need for the state to set adequate reimbursement rates and why inadequate rates affect providers’ ability to recruit, retain, and compete, which can lead to an unhealthy provider network and, ultimately, an access to care issue
  • The need for states to protect a set adequate rate via a rate floor, and the need to regularly review and adjust this rate
  • The need for state oversight and regulation of MCOs so that providers can focus on care delivery rather than managing the administrative burdens and variable practices of each MCO
  • The importance of the federal government equalizing Home and Community Based Services with nursing home care to solve for the institutional bias that currently allows LTSS individuals to access facility care more easily than home and community-based care
  • The need for the federal government to collect uniform data so that MCOs and providers can work together to close care gaps and save the state money

Each section was accompanied by BAYADA-state specific examples, and the presentation concluded with a series of recommendations related to each of the above points. Throughout Dave’s presentation, the Commissioners and audience were engaged and following along to the accompanying PowerPoint. After his presentation, Commissioner Leanna George—the mother of a child currently living in an Intermediate Care Facility—positively commented that rate floor setting was as avenue towards ensuring adequate reimbursement rates that she had not heard of before.

During the Q&A portion of the meeting, Commissioner Brian Burwell asked that each panelist state which area of MLTSS the Commission should focus their research and attention. The other panelists echoed Dave’s sentiments regarding federal changes to rebalance HCBS with nursing home care to remove institutional biases that continue to affect beneficiaries who wish to remain at home.

After the panel wrapped up, Commission Chair Penny Thompson approached Dave to compliment him on his presentation, and Dave has already been contacted by MACPAC’s Executive Director Anne Schwartz regarding his future support and counsel on MLTSS. GAO is ready to work with the Commission on next steps and is excited to be at the table to help recommend policies that are favorable to home care providers.

Thank you to all BAYADA colleagues that assisted Dave in the research and creation of this presentation:

  • Alisa Borovik
  • Melissa Burnside
  • Lee Dobson
  • Linda Hughes
  • Kelly Lawson
  • Louise Lindenmeier
  • Matthew Lippitt
  • Kerry Meabon
  • Tara Montague
  • Laura Ness
  • Jennifer Vranich

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!

 

CMS Removes HHGM Proposal from Final 2018 Rule

Submitted by David Totaro, Chief Government Affairs Officer (GAO)

Our voices were heard. Thank you and high five to all of our BAYADA office and field employees who recently took action to voice concern about the federal Home Health Groupings Model (HHGM) proposal, which would have resulted in revenue reductions between 4.3% and 17% for BAYADA’s Home Health Specialty Practice. Such significant reductions would have impacted not only Home Health, but BAYADA as a whole.

Yesterday afternoon, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) formally indicated that 2018’s Payment Rule does not include the HHGM proposal. CMS indicated that it could not finalize the HHGM proposal at this time based on the comments received on the issue.

BAYADA employees sent more than 3,000 messages to members of Congress urging representatives and senators to take a stand against HHGM. BAYADA joined industry-wide action led by an unprecedented coordinated effort by the Partnership for Quality Home Health Care, Elevating Home and the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC). This effort spurred 50 US senators and 179 US representatives to reach out to CMS and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to caution against finalizing HHGM. Through BAYADA’s action on this issue and previous calls to action, BAYADA has shown itself to be one of the strongest advocacy teams in our industry.

While delaying the HHGM proposal does not indicate a permanent withdrawal, it is a clear victory for the home health and home care communities that took immediate action to stop the rule from becoming final. BAYADA and other industry stakeholders will continue to work with CMS to improve the payment model, including participating in discussions with the Congressional Committee on Ways and Means to finalize a potential legislative proposal.

Thank you for your reliability and your dedication to advocating on behalf of our staff and clients.

 

Why Client Advocacy Matters

Submitted By Rick Hynick, Director, Government Affairs, Client and Family Advocacy

At BAYADA, we often see that many of the government reimbursement rates for programs such as Medicaid are low and have not been increased in long periods of time.  The difficult effect this has on our revenue then carries over on our ability to offer pay rates that are attractive to nurses and aides seeking employment.  They sometimes accept other offers because of this, making recruitment a challenge and also making open shifts more prevalent.

There are ways that we can work together to combat this challenge.  Our service offices have wonderful relationships with our clients and family members. It is these people who we provide services to who have the best understanding of what it is like to live minute-by-minute with complex medical needs.  Government Affairs and service office staff working together have the best opportunity get the voices and real-life experiences of our clients out to our legislators who can make a difference.

Our legislators have the responsibility to represent the people who live in their districts and also to control the reimbursement and regulatory matters of most of our government funded programs. Our goal is to show the true needs that exist by getting voices of the clients to them so when it is time to vote or make a decision about an important topic such as reimbursement, they will do so with the best information possible at hand. -Over time, this will lead to higher reimbursement rates and better living wages for our staff allowing us to better align with The BAYADA Way and help more people.

A BAYADA client advocates for better HHA wages with legislators and families looking on.

The daughter of a BAYADA client and a BAYADA nurse at an advocacy event.

Busy Week for the Government Affairs Office in Washington D.C.

Submitted by Dave Totaro, Chief Government Affairs Officer (GAO)

Last week, I was elected to the Board of the Partnership for Quality Home Health (PQHH) replacing Chairman and Founder, Mark Baiada, who stepped down upon his retirement.  PQHH is an alliance of major home health providers dedicated to the development of policy to improve the quality of life and care of all home health patients.  I am also a board member and Chairman of the Partnership for Medicaid Home-based Care (PMHC), an alliance of major Medicaid providers, managed care organizations, state and national home care associations and interested business affiliates dedicated to the development of policy to enhance Medicaid reform.

Also, following each Board meeting, the Partnerships held events to honor the support for Medicaid and Medicare shown by home health care champions U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).

And, last week, the Government Affairs Office supported the PQHH Action Alert to urge the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to withdraw their Home Health Groupings Model (HHGM), a proposed new payment model for home health services that would significantly cut home health revenues by more than 15%.  As of September 14,  759 BAYADA colleagues have sent 2334 messages to 156 legislators.  Thank you to everyone who took action and who participated in this very important and necessary alert.

Photo: Dave Totaro and Senator Bob Casey at the Partnership for Home-based Care Board Meeting in Washington, DC.