Client & Family Stories: Meet Tara Montague

Tara is an advocate for her family, and yours.

NJ Assemblywoman Carol Murphy with home care advocate Tara and daughter Mary, who has SMA
NJ Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (right) learned about the benefits of home care when she visited Mary and Tara at their home.

Last summer, as lawmakers in Washington, DC debated health care reform, Tara Montague had cause for concern. The proposed legislation included significant cuts to Medicaid, which for Tara and her family, could have been disastrous.

Tara and her husband, Jim, rely on home care nursing for their daughter Mary, 20, who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). They know that many families turn to Medicaid to cover the cost of home care and feel fortunate to have private insurance for Mary’s nurses. However, they depend on Medicaid for Mary’s prescriptions and medical equipment, which total in the thousands each month.

“Mary is on numerous medications, and her medical equipment includes a ventilator, oxygen, a wheelchair and hospital bed, feeding pump supplies, a nebulizer, pulse oximeter machine, and more,” said Tara. “Without Medicaid, I don’t know what we’d do, and that’s why I fight so hard to get Mary the benefits she needs.”

Giving families a voice

As a parent of a child with special needs, Tara can understand and empathize with our clients’ daily struggles because she lives it, every day. Last year, she joined BAYADA’s Government Affairs office as manager of client and family advocacy. Here, she continues to fight for Mary, and for every pediatric and adult client who depends on home health care to live with comfort, independence, and dignity.

“Last summer I worked with BAYADA clients who were willing to share their stories with federal legislators to help prevent the Medicaid cuts,” said Tara. “As I continue to grow in this new role, I hope to encourage more and more families to speak up, to have a voice, and to know that they can make a huge difference in the legislative process.”

Getting involved is quick and easy

Tara knows all too well that for clients and families, the biggest obstacle to getting involved is time. That’s why she encourages them to register with BAYADA’s Hearts for Home Care Advocacy Center at heartsforhomecare.com.

We are not looking for a huge time commitment, it’s whatever they feel comfortable with doing,” she said.

The mission of Hearts for Home Care is to be a voice for BAYADA employees, clients, and their families. Through education, advocacy, research, and community service, BAYADA advocates for policies that support the highest quality of home health care services. The online advocacy center keeps clients and families informed about legislative issues at the state and federal level that can impact the home health care industry, and their access to care.

Advocacy can be a simple as taking five minutes to log onto the Hearts for Home Care Advocacy Center website and sending a pre-written email to local, state, and federal legislators. If clients and families want to do more, they can share their stories on the Hearts for Home Care Advocacy Center website; attend a lobby day at their state capital, a legislative round table, or a town hall; they can visit a legislator’s office; or invite a legislator into their home to see, first hand, how home health care professionals help improve lives.

Connecting with families and sharing stories

Tara has a degree in political science and extensive experience in marketing. In her previous role as a community liaison with a BAYADA Pediatrics office in New Jersey, she educated physicians about home health care, started a parent support group, coordinated a family resource fair, and helped families navigate through insurance challenges.

In her new role she hopes to develop training materials and tools for clients and families who want to become more active in advocacy efforts. But even more, she is looking forward to getting to know clients and families from across the country, and helping to share their stories – just like Mary’s.

To learn more about Hearts for Home Care, how you can get involved with advocacy, or how you can share your story, contact Tara at tmontague@bayada.com.

Why Client Advocacy Matters

 

BAYADA client Carly (front) is pictured here with NJ Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (right) during a legislative home visit, which served to familiarize the assemblyman about how home care affects his constituents. Carly and her mother Christina (left) also testified at a legislative hearing in Trenton about the need for increased Private Duty Nursing (PDN) rates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Client advocacy matters more than that of home care industry professionals. While home care professionals can share facts and figures about home care with legislators, it is clients’ stories that truly paint the picture of what home care means to legislators’ constituents.

Whether a home care client is an infant, senior, or any age in-between, it is very likely that the nursing or aide services that they rely on is from a Medicaid or Medicare program.  What this means is that government officials are the ones making the decisions on care regulations and reimbursement rates rather than those who are regularly affected by home care.  Home care providers must accept these rates and regulations and provide care to the best of their abilities based on what the government has set forth rather than on what is actually best for clients and their families.

Home care employees regularly see that many of the government reimbursement rates for home care are low and have not been increased in years. This has a domino effect in that if providers can’t bring more revenue in, they can’t pay higher rates to attract more staff to care for current clients or for new clients who will need care in the future.

Many areas of our country are starting to age and will need caregivers to allow people to live in their homes instead of in facilities, yet projections indicate fewer people want to be professional caregivers due to the industry’s low wages. Additionally, more nurses are choosing employment in other types of settings, which makes it difficult for many home care clients to have adequate nursing coverage because facilities such as hospitals can pay nurses a higher wage.

As elections come and go, we see changes in our government leaders and with these changes come the possibility of healthcare policy changes. These changes can be sudden and unpredictable, and these changes often threaten funding cuts to important programs such as Medicaid or Medicare. Any funding cuts to these programs would be devastating to home care providers and to program beneficiaries.

The interesting thing is that the representatives and senators who we vote for at the state and federal level make these decisions, and few of them have strong healthcare backgrounds.  In addition, it is their job to represent all of the people from their respective districts to the best of their abilities. While provider employees can share their voices through legislative meetings, clients’ and their family members’ advocating and sharing their stories matter most.

Clients who benefit from home care and their family members have their own special stories to tell.  As the end users of nursing and aide services, clients and family members have the first-hand knowledge of how the Medicaid and Medicare programs are working and what could be done to improve them.  Clients names, faces, and shared stories paint a far more detailed picture of home care than industry professionals can with facts and figures. When legislators vote on issues related to home care, clients stories are better-remembered, and legislators are much more likely to vote for favorable home care policies with these in mind.

“I’ve been an advocate for my wife, who is 100 percent dependent, for 16 years,” said Mike Pollock, the husband of a client who advocates to protect home care for his wife and all who need services.  “Thanks to Medicare and Medicaid and BAYADA, I’ve been able to care for her at home.  Although Medicare and Medicaid are excellent resources, they have their issues.  An excellent resource for solving these issues are our elected officials,” Pollock said.  “In fact, elected officials are the only people capable of fixing issues that arise within Medicare and Medicaid. But they can’t help if they don’t know what we as family caregivers are dealing with every day.  Never hesitate about reaching out to them. It’s been my experience they are eager to help,” Pollock concluded.

By putting advocacy into action and connecting our clients to their elected officials, there is a far better chance that Medicaid and Medicare will be protected and grow with the needs of our clients. Please email me at rhynick@bayada.com for more information related to client and family advocacy and what you can do to help protect and strengthen the home care industry in your state and at the federal level.

BAYADA NJ PAC Hosts a Fundraising Event for Assemblyman Troy Singleton

BAYADA staff and NJ Assemblyman Troy Singleton (center)

On Thursday, October 26, the BAYADA NJ PAC hosted a fundraising event in Trenton honoring 7th District Assemblyman Troy Singleton. Attendees included 7th District Assembly candidate Carol Murphy, representatives from the home care industry and other industries supportive of Assemblyman Singleton, who is currently running for the 7th District Senate seat.

Chief Government Affairs Officer David Totaro welcomed Assemblyman Singleton and thanked the many sponsors and attendees who contributed over $13,000 in support of the Assemblyman’s campaign. Assemblyman Singleton has been a supporter home care, our clients, and employees for many years. He recently sponsored legislation that will mandate managed care companies to reimburse the Personal Care Assistant (PCA) Program at no less than the state’s fee-for-service rate.

In July, Assemblyman Singleton introduced new legislation to increase the reimbursement rate under state fee-for-service for private duty nursing by $10 per hour. During the event, BAYADA recognized Assemblyman Singleton as the “Legislator of the Year” for his ongoing commitment to making home care better and stronger, as clients and families deserve the care they need in the setting they prefer: their own homes.

Fifth Annual NJ BAYADA Champion Awards Ceremony Connects with Purpose

Dave Totaro, Champions Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, Senator-elect Declan O’Scanlon, Lieutenant Governor-elect Sheila Oliver, and Louise Lindenmeier

In December at the BAYADA Home Health Care Champion Awards we reflected on a year of many victories and looked ahead to a new year with new challenges. Speakers, awardees and nearly 100 guests celebrated the successful increase of NJ’s fee-for-service rate for personal care assistants to $19 per hour. We also acknowledged employees’, clients’ and home care industry friends’ commitment to advocacy. These efforts led to the passage of A320/S1018, which was signed by Governor Christie earlier this year. Effective this July, A320/S1018 requires Managed Medicaid reimbursement rates for home health aide services to be at or above the state’s fee-for-service rate.

An inspirational highlight of the night, those in attendance were moved by Dana Insley’s touching speech. Dana is the mother of a young client who had a difficult start to life. Dana’s daughter was placed in foster care before being adopted by the Insley family. Dana spoke of the blessing home care has been in her family’s life and discussed the significant improvements her daughter has made with the support of her BAYADA nurses.

The evening’s honorees, Lieutenant Governor-elect Sheila Oliver, Senator-elect Declan O’Scanlon, and Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz were visibly moved by Dana’s remarks and reiterated their support for home care during their acceptance remarks.

Also honored at the ceremony was Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, who represents New Jersey’s 4th District, which encompasses the Insley family’s home. Assemblyman Moriarty had visited the Insleys home in the past and was able to glean a full and meaningful understanding of the day-to-day life of a child receiving home care.

After a heartfelt evening that reminded everyone of our purpose and why we do what we do, Chief Government Affairs Officer David Totaro took the stage to remind all of those in attendance of the importance of advocacy and that, in addition to words, action is needed. He noted the huge impact of New Jersey advocates, who sent nearly one-quarter of all messages directed to federal legislators this summer from BAYADA’s network during the health care reform debate. Thank You for your commitment to advocacy.

Together with our Champions, we can make a meaningful difference to the lives of our clients and BAYADA caregivers. If you would like to get more involved in New Jersey’s advocacy program, sign up to become a Heart for Home Care Advocate.

NJ GAO 2017 Year in Review

As I reflect on 2017 and what we have accomplished, the first thing that comes to mind is Thank You. Thank you for your support, your engagement and your advocacy efforts — all of which made a difference in the lives of our clients, families and employees.

2017 was the “Year of Client Advocacy and Engagement.” Clients and families engaged lawmakers and the community at-large through home visits, family support group meetings, and phone calls and meetings with lawmakers in Trenton. These efforts ensured that our aides, nurses, and the importance of home care remained top of mind to New Jersey representatives and senators.

2017 was successful in many ways and set us up for even bigger wins in 2018. Below, please find a summary of 2017’s priorities and accomplishments:

• The Managed Medicaid Rate Floor bill was signed into law, effective July 1, 2018. The new law mandates a 100% pass-through of increased reimbursement to aides. In 2018 we will introduce a new bill which will be more reflective of a competitive wage environment and will mirror the original bill with no mandated pass-through.

• The Personal Care Assistant (PCA) fee-for-service rate was raised from $18.00 per hour to $19.00 per hour through a budget resolution, effective July 1, 2017.

• We successfully lobbied against Governor Christie’s intent to end the NJ/PA Reciprocity Tax agreement. This accomplishment saved our employees and BAYADA thousands of dollars in taxes.

• In July, the Private Duty Nursing (PDN) bill was introduced. This bill’s aim is to raise the PDN reimbursement rate by $10 per hour for RNs and LPNs. While the bill did not ultimately pass the state legislature in 2017, it brought awareness to the need for higher reimbursement rates within the program. We will continue to pursue this bill’s passage as a major goal for 2018.

• In conjunction with NJ’s Home Care Association, we successfully lobbied for legislation that permits physical therapy aides to practice in clients’ homes as long as the aides are supervised by a licensed physical therapist every two weeks.

• The BAYADA Champion Awards were held in December. This year we honored Lieutenant Governor-elect Sheila Oliver, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty and Senator-elect Declan O’Scanlon for their unwavering support of home care.

• BAYADA hosted a fundraiser for Senator-elect Troy Singleton, raising over $13,000 for his election fund.

• BAYADA reviewed and submitted comments to the state regarding the new 10:60 home care regulations.

Looking ahead to 2018, we will be working with Governor-elect Murphy and NJ legislators new and old to continue to advance home care and community-based services for our state’s neediest populations. GAO seeks to push for new laws to improve reimbursement rates within the PDN program, introduce legislation to provide technical changes to the current PCA managed care law, pursue minimum wage law changes, address parking challenges for our nurses and, of course, continue to advocate on behalf of our employees, clients and their families.

Cheers to an exciting year ahead! If you would like to get more involved in New Jersey’s advocacy program, sign up to become a Heart for Home Care Advocate.

New NJ Governor Elected!

Submitted by Louise Lindenmeier, Director, NJ Government Affairs (GAO)

On November 7, voters elected nominee Phil Murphy to serve as the state’s 56th Governor starting this January through 2022.  Governor-elect Murphy chose Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver to serve as Lieutenant Governor.  Assemblywoman Oliver served as Speaker of the Assembly for four years.  All 120 of the legislative seats were also up for election.  The democrats increased their majorities in both houses where they will control the Senate 25-15, and the Assembly 52-28.  BAYADA is looking forward to the new administration to support home health care and help us deal with the many challenges of managed Medicaid, access to care, and increasing wages for our field staff through higher reimbursement under Medicaid and waiver programs.

 

Government Affairs Office Presents at NJ Statewide Meeting of Councils

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

On November 18, I had the opportunity to present at the statewide meeting of the Regional Family Support Planning Councils on The State of Home Supports and Services for the Medically Fragile Population in NJ.  The members of the 10 regional councils monitor and evaluate family support programs, provide information to policymakers, and advocate to local officials and state legislators about the needs of those who support a family member with a developmental/intellectual disability at home.  As part of the day’s program, we also had the chance to meet a representative of Governor-elect Phil Murphy’s campaign who emphasized the new administration’s desire to learn more about the disability community and its needs.

 

BAYADA Meets with NJ Governor Chris Christie

Submitted by Louise Lindenmeier, Director, NJ Government Affairs (GAO)

Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro, State Assistive Care Practice Leader Eric Thul, and Director, Strategy & Value-Based Partnerships Matt Lippitt met with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to discuss the recently signed law which sets a floor for minimum reimbursement under managed Medicaid for Personal Care Assistant Care.  Our team explained the challenges under managed Medicaid, how reimbursement is used to support personal care services, and the wage needs of the home health aides.  The meeting was very informative for both the Governor and us, and served as an excellent start towards addressing the unintended consequences of the Governor’s conditional veto.


Photo: Matt Lippitt, Eric Thul, Governor Christie and Dave Totaro

BAYADA NJ PAC Hosts a Fundraising Event for Assemblyman Troy Singleton

Submitted by Louise Lindenmeier, Government Affairs Office (GAO) NJ Director

 On Thursday, October 26, the BAYADA NJ Political Action Committee (PAC) hosted a fundraising event in Trenton honoring 7th District Assemblyman Troy Singleton.  Attendees included 7th District Assembly candidate Carol Murphy, representatives from the home care industry and other industries supportive of the assemblyman who is currently running for the 7th District Senate seat.  Chief Government Affairs Officer David Totaro welcomed Assemblyman Singleton and thanked the many sponsors and attendees who contributed over $13,000 in support of the assemblyman’s campaign.  Assemblyman Singleton has been a supporter of home care, our clients, and employees for many years.  He recently sponsored legislation that will mandate the managed care companies to reimburse the Personal Care Assistant Program at no less than the state’s fee–for-service rate.  In July, Assemblyman Singleton introduced new legislation to increase the reimbursement rate under state fee-for-service for private duty nursing by $10 per hour.  During the event, BAYADA recognized Assemblyman Singleton as the “Legislator of the Year” for his ongoing commitment to making home care better and stronger, as clients and families deserve the care they need in their homes.

NJ Client & Family Advocacy Manager Shares Her Own Client Experience During Recent Home Visit

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

I had the pleasure of hosting Carol Murphy, Assembly candidate in Legislative District 7, for a home visit to meet my daughter Mary.  As a 20 year long client of Mt. Laurel Pediatrics (MLP), Mary is the epitome of what home care can help families to achieve and we wanted Ms. Murphy to experience that first-hand.  Clinical Manager Chantel Denny and Administrative Coordinator Brooke Fitzpatrick discussed some of the challenging staffing issues that occur due to low reimbursement rates and difficulty attracting qualified nurses.  Registered Nurse Stacey Sutton shared some of the varied tasks that she performs in order to keep Mary healthy and safe at home and at school.  Ms. Murphy made a commitment, if elected to work with us to make home health care nursing a more attractive career option in the state.

Photo: Tara Montague, Client Mary, Carol Murphy