Pennsylvania Home Care Recipients Advocate for Better Access to Home Care

 Pennsylvania ranks seventh in the nation for the percent of its population that is 65 years of age or older1. As Baby Boomers continue to age and the population of older adults needing long-term care increases, the need for caregivers will continue to increase as well. Since COVID shined a light on major drawbacks of congregate living facilities like nursing homes and institutions, it is not just the elderly population that are choosing to be cared for at home. This is great news for the hundreds of thousands of individuals and families who prefer to age at home rather than in a facility. However, it also poses a major problem: there aren’t enough caregivers to take care of the current Pennsylvania population at home let alone the 29% growth that will occur by 2028, leaving a shortage of 73,000 home health aides2. This is due in large part to low state funding for Medicaid programs like Pennsylvania’s Personal Assistance Services (PAS) that cares for medically fragile individuals.

Stephen Hoppy from Luzerne County, PA with his home health aides

This is where our advocates come in. Home care recipients across the Commonwealth have banded together to help alleviate this growing caregiver shortage. Advocates like Stephen Hoppy from Luzerne County, PA are speaking out and helping raise awareness of the inadequate state funding. Stephen is approved for 20 hours per day of care from the PAS program, but since he cannot find enough caregivers to cover all those hours, he has been paying $500 per week out of his own pocket to help secure that coverage. Recently, Stephen was interviewed by FOX56 News about how the caregiver shortage has affected him.

“I am advocating because our healthcare system is compromised. There are plenty of people worse off than me that can’t get home care, which is unacceptable. These home health aides are medical professionals, and they need to be paid for their expertise and knowledge,” says Stephen.

COVID has only exacerbated this issue, with a mass exodus of health care workers no longer willing to risk their lives for a career that yields an average of only $12.40/hour. BAYADA Home Health Care has had to deny 40% of PAS cases in 2020 and 2021 because there were not enough caregivers to staff the cases. Teri Henning, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA), says she’s hearing similar numbers from PAS providers across the board. “They simply cannot compete for the workforce,” she says. “Home health aides can earn more money doing similar work in other state home care programs, or in nursing homes, or even doing less physically- and emotionally-demanding work at Amazon, Target, or in fast food.”

“BAYADA Home Health Care has had to deny 40% of PAS cases in 2020 and 2021 because there were not enough caregivers to staff the cases.”

Pittsburgh resident, Maria Kolat with son Matthew

Home care advocate and mother, Maria, from Pittsburgh has also joined Hearts for Home Care’s advocacy efforts after experiencing these issues firsthand with her 22-year-old son, Matthew, who is developmentally disabled and requires non-stop supervision. Since COVID, their lives have dramatically changed—his schooling, his ability to receive psychological and medical care and—very significantly—his family’s ability to access the home health aide (HHA) care that Matthew needs and is qualified to receive. Maria and Matthew were featured on Pittsburgh’s local KDKA 2CBS station advocating on behalf of home health aides.

“Aides are leaving the caregiving field to work at big retail like Walmart and Amazon—or in fast food,” says Maria. “They can make $15 an hour or more there. When we see a revolving door of aides, Matthew can’t get the one-on-one care he needs, which puts him at risk.”

Home care advocates like Stephen and Maria give life to our advocacy efforts ─ their real-life experiences aren’t just numbers and statistics, but genuine struggles that thousands of Pennsylvanians endure every single day. They help tell the story so that legislators and influencers can fully grasp how their decisions are affecting their constituents and communities.

Home care advocates like Stephen and Maria give life to our advocacy efforts.

At the end of the day, when aides are not being drawn into working in home care, it’s Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents like Matthew and Stephen who suffer. PHA, home care providers, and advocates are asking the State to increase funding for the PAS program. Additional funding would put home care agencies in a better position to recruit and retain more HHAs, and thus ensure that PAS beneficiaries can continue to access the care they need to stay safe and healthy at home.

  1. https://www.leadingagepa.org/Portals/0/154869%20Long%20Term%20Care%20Statistics%20Book%20revised%20final.pdf page 14.
  2. https://mercer.healthcare-workforce.us/ +math

Advocacy Matters!

At Hearts for Home Care, we help those that care about home care by enabling you to get involved at the capacity in which you’re able to do so. Email us at advocacy@bayada.com or follow us on Facebook.com/Hearts4HomeCare in order to learn more about the home care advocacy community and find opportunities to get involved.

GAO PA: 2% Increase to Pennsylvania’s ACSP Practice to Help Vulnerable Residents Access Care

HHAs Antwain and Markeeta Lewis were featured in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette to bring public and legislative awareness to low PA PAS rates

Throughout 2019 GAO, Pennsylvania office & field employees, clients, and industry partners banded together to secure a 2% increase for Personal Assistant Services (PAS) under Pennsylvania’s Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL), effective as of January 1, 2020.  This increase will result in an additional $700,000 in annualized revenue, as well as an additional $625,000 in operating surplus and will predominantly affect our Assistive Care State Programs (ACSP) offices.

In addition to increased revenue for Pennsylvania’s ACSP offices, this rate hike will also benefit the state’s most medically fragile and vulnerable adults and seniors. GAO anticipates that service offices will be able to recruit and retain more home health aides and fill more shifts that are currently going uncovered. 

In addition to traditional lobbying and advocacy efforts, GAO and state ACSP service offices worked together on an aggressive public affairs campaign that resulted in several articles regarding BAYADA clients’ struggles with accessing care, and opinion pieces authored by Clinical Managers (CMs). This campaign further added pressure to the state legislature to begin to solve the access to care issue. In 2020, GAO is seeking to increase the PAS rate even more—an additional 8% to reach a 10% total increase over 2018’s reimbursement rate for PAS services.

Advocate Spotlight: Mark Steidl acts as a voice for those without one–through his Dynavox communication device

Relying on a communication device to speak does not stop Mark from being a fierce advocate for disability rights and for the many individuals across the US that, like him, rely on in-home caregivers.

Pictured: Disability rights advocate Mark Steidl (center) joins the Pennsylvania Homecare Association's Advocacy Day in Harrisburg to tell legislators about what home care means to him. He is pictured here with BAYADA Home Health Care Associate Kimberly Gardner (left) and CEO David Baiada (right).
Pictured: Disability rights advocate Mark Steidl (center) joins the Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s Advocacy Day in Harrisburg to tell legislators about what home care means to him. He is pictured here with BAYADA Home Health Care Associate Kimberly Gardner (left) and CEO David Baiada (right).

 

On May 22, Mark Steidl and his mother Tina joined hundreds of Hearts for Home Care advocates in Harrisburg, PA to express to legislators the importance of home care and of its impact on the thousands of Pennsylvanians that are able to remain safely at home with their families due to in-home services.

Harrisburg isn’t Mark’s first time joining with others to advocate for better policies. In addition to his participation in the Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s (PHA) Advocacy Day, Mark currently actively advocates on behalf of the National Council on Independent Living and the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s “21 and Able project.

Not only is Mark an advocate, but his goal is to complete his Associate’s Degree in Social Work coursework, go on to obtain his bachelor’s degree, and eventually serve in a case management position so that he can continue to help others with disabilities. Mark, who is 23 and diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, uses a Dynavox to communicate. Mark operates the device by using the switches that are affixed to his wheelchair at either side of his head. The Dynavox allows Mark to type out what he wants to say, and then the device’s speakers enable Mark to communicate out loud.

During their time in the state capitol, Mark and his mother met with Senator Jay Costa, Representative Paul Costa, and Representative Ed Gainey, who represents Mark’s district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. To prepare for the day, Mark used his Dynavox to create a message that he would share with each legislator. Mark found it important to not only advocate for himself, but for his caregivers. In addition to advocating for three key issues that PHA outlined as legislative priorities for the home care industry in Pennsylvania, Mark’s speech included the following:

At home and in the community, I have personal care assistants who help me with various physical things. These assistants are very important to me, as they are to any person who needs one-on-one help, whether people with disability or older people. These aides enable us to live at home and avoid having to go to nursing homes.

“I am advocating today on behalf of home care providers who make it possible for us to have high-quality homecare services… When I think of my priorities as an individual with a disability, my first priority is my health and how it affects my life. But helping people maintain good health should also a priority for society.

I am pleased to be here today because you make decisions that affect people with disabilities and older adults. You have the power to create positive change and to enable people to live good lives!”

When Hearts for Home Care asked Mark to tell us why he advocates, Mark used his Dynavox to tell us:

“I consider myself an advocate for myself and for other people with disabilities. My disability is visible, and many people are likely to underestimate me and not see the person that I am. I have to challenge society’s perception each and every day.

I have to tell people when I first meet them why I use a wheelchair and communication device to talk. I have to explain cerebral palsy. People often wonder how I do school work without the use of my hands, so I have to explain that also.

All of us with disabilities have abilities and accomplishments, but we have to advocate for ourselves in order to create our place in the world.

The efforts of many dynamic leaders, innovators and activists affect our lives every day. The things I do every day would have been impossible 30 or 40 years ago. Before the changes in education laws that occurred in the 1970s, I would have been considered too disabled to attend public school, let alone Community College of Allegheny County. Thirty years ago – before the advent of electronic communication devices, I would not have been able to communicate with you. If I had been born in 1965 instead of 1995, my parents might have been told to send me to an institution instead of raising me at home with all the support I need. Times have really changed. Advocacy and new ways of thinking have created those changes.

But much more needs to be done and much more can be done. We have to keep advocating for the changes and the opportunities we want.”

Mark is an inspiration to many of his peers, and to many who understand the importance of sharing their voice on behalf of others. For ways you can advocate for yourself, your loved ones, and your community at-large, please email advocacy@bayada.com