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!

Trump Signs RAISE Family Caregivers Act, Bringing Hope to Over 40 million Family Caregivers Nationwide

Last week President Donald Trump signed the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, which passed the US House on December 18th and the US Senate on January 9th with strong bipartisan support in each chamber. Despite the tenuous political landscape, it goes to show that there is strong understanding that nationally, more must be done to support the over 40 million family caregivers in the United States.

The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act of 2017—better known as the RAISE Family Caregivers Act—directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and maintain a national family caregiving strategy to address the needs of family caregivers. This plan must be developed within 18 months and the strategy must be updated every other year.

The act also establishes an advisory body that will bring together stakeholders from the private and public sectors to make recommendations that communities, providers, government and others may take to help caregivers. Some of the topics that will likely be addressed by the council include: respite services and options, workplace flexibility and financial security, and training support for navigating the healthcare system.

“The idea is to come up with best practices for health care providers and others, for employers to better support family caregivers and for government to better support family caregivers,” said Rhonda Richards, senior legislative representative of AARP. AARP championed the legislation, which received broad support from disability advocacy groups and other organizations, including the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC).

Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) were the bill’s primary sponsors in the Senate and the primary sponsor in the House was Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.). Rep. Harper has real-life experience in the family caretaker role, having been caregiver to both his mother and his 28-year-old-son who suffers from Fragile X Syndrome.

According to AARP research, caregivers aged 50 and older who leave the workforce to care for a parent lose, on average, over $300,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetime. The financial, emotional and physical burden of caregiving is compounded by the nation’s aging population and the sharply shrinking “caregiver support ratio”- the number of potential family caregivers aged 45-64 for each person 80 and older. This legislation not only brings awareness to family caregiving issues, but will hopefully begin addressing the struggles that millions of family caregivers in our country face due to lack of support.

If you’d like to read about the RAISE Family Caregivers Act farther, Forbes has published a two-part series which focuses on the legislation’s specifics, and real life stories of the struggles of American caregivers.

*Update: The Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) released a fact sheet that contains information about the RAISE Family Caregivers Act and data specific to Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers.

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.