The facts are clear: Home care is less expensive than hospital or other institutional care. Plus, it enables medically complex children and adults to remain at home amongst their loved ones. But because the State of South Carolina has not increased reimbursement rates for skilled nursing home care services since 2008, families are finding it increasingly harder to access the skilled, high quality care that they need to stay as independent as possible in their communities.
State funding for home care has not been increased in more than a decade. At the same time, hospitals and other facilities have been steadily able to increase wages. Even more so, nurses can make more in home care in surrounding states. Now, home care providers find that they can compete for less than a quarter of all the nurses available in South Carolina. When agencies face such recruitment and retention struggles, home care recipients and their families suffer.
When there are less home care nurses available, families find that they experience missed shifts, which can not only create undue stress and chaos as loved ones must miss work, lose out on sleep, and forego other necessary activities—but it also puts the client in danger. For those who need skilled nursing care, missed shifts can mean dangerous consequences, including trips to the ER and unnecessary hospitalizations.
Even more so, many major home care providers have already left South Carolina because of the low funding for home care. Stagnant rates that are more than a decade old make keeping their doors open unsustainable. As more and more agencies leave the state, the harder it is for families to access care. Simply put, if the State does not take action to increase funding for home care, South Carolina’s most medically complex and vulnerable families will have few options for care.
South Carolina’s concerned families are making their voices heard: They are reaching out to their legislators and media to share their message: Increase funding for home health care so that families can access the high quality, reliable care that they need to be where they want to be: At home.
In North Carolina and across BAYADA’s GAO states, our legislative goals tend to revolve around two main tenets: First, achieving policies that streamline processes so that service offices can operate without added burdens and so residents can readily access care, and second, to increase reimbursement rates so that we can recruit and retain the caregivers necessary and ensure that we have the supply necessary to meet the demand.
It seems like common sense—North Carolinians want to stay in their homes, and home care services cost states less than care delivery in a different setting. So why can’t legislators simply fund home care programs at higher rates? The truth is that there are many competing interests and priorities, and limited amounts of state resources.
It is important to recognize the constraints with which lawmakers must work. Last year, Health & Human Services represented 22.4% of North Carolina’s nearly $24 billion state budget, second only to education, which represented 57.5%. Looking forward to the upcoming budget year, the state’s fiscal research arm reported that top budget pressures include: public schools, higher education, the state health plan, and Medicaid/Health Choice—meaning that there is a lot of pressure on the state’s already tight budget—and that’s not to mention the other interest groups we compete with, such as state nursing homes and other healthcare coalitions.
As GAO continues to garner legislative support for $29.5 million in state funds needed for the Medicaid rate increases we are seeking, advocacy efforts will play an important role. Please watch for ways to support our legislative ask, and please reach out to Mike Sokoloski at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can get involved in advocacy on behalf of your staff and clients.
NC Bills we are following
To date, 824 bills have been filed in the North Carolina General Assembly this session. GAO continues to work through the proposed bills to evaluate their impact on home health care, home care, and hospice. Below are a few bills that are of interest:
Home care champion Representative Josh Dobson submitted the bill that extends the deadline by which certain providers, including home care and home health care agencies, must participate in and submit data to the state’s Health Information Exchange Network, NC HealthConnex. We commend the bill sponsors for this delay.
While participation in and submission to NC HealthConnex is important and necessary in that it grants both the state and providers electronic, timely access to demographic and clinical data, our industry and others provider sectors do not have a consistent platform or an easy way to gather and transmit the required data. Access to this data and clinical information will help the state and providers identify spending trends that will facilitate health care cost containment while also improving health care outcomes only if the data is reliable and consistently reported.
This extended deadline proposed by House Bill 70 grants us additional time to meet the reporting requirements. We thank all the bill signatories for recognizing the administrative burden and granting additional time to meet the requirement.
The bill passed both the House floor on March 27, 2019 and is headed to the Senate.
2. H745– Medicaid Funding Request for Private Duty Nursing (PDN), sponsored by Representatives White, Lambeth, Adcock, and Cunningham
Our health care members, a home care nurse (White), a hospital administrator (Lambeth), a nurse practitioner (Adcock), and a hospice nurse (Cunningham), introduced H745 to increase the Medicaid funding for nursing under PDN from $39.60 to $45.00 by requesting $4.1M for 2019-2020 and $8.3M for 2020-2021 in recurring state funds.
As health care leaders, they recognize the importance our services play in keeping some of North Carolina’s most clinically complex citizen at home and out of more expensive settings. While the necessary funds were not allocated in the House Budget, we have an opportunity to get it into the Senate Budget and are continuing to advocate for this option.
3. H728– Increase Innovation Waiver Slots, sponsored by Representatives Insko, Hawkins, and Lambeth
This bill appropriates 500 Innovation Waiver Slots to address the waiting lists. It would support North Carolinians living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and help them receive needed services within their home and community. The bill proposes to appropriate $5.3M for 2019-2020 and $10,9M for 2020-2021 in recurring funds.
4. S361– Increase Innovation Waiver Slots, sponsored by Representatives Insko, Hawkins, and Lambeth
This proposed bill attempts to address several different health care issues in one bill. This approach makes it challenging to garner support in its entirety. The bill includes the following provisions:
Elimination of Certificate of Need (CON) – Any action that erodes the established process by which a need is determined may lead to destabilizing our health care industry. The established CON process allows for any group to apply for a Special Needs Determination should they feel health care needs are not being met in their community.
Establishes a carve-out for PACE organization – Any action that allows a group to be exempt from following Home Care Licensure Rules puts recipients at risk as the organization would not be required to follow health and safety rules outlined state licensure.
Medicaid Expansion – Any opportunity for the North Carolina’s working poor to have access to health care coverage, the better. This provision includes a work requirement with exceptions for individuals attending school and or deemed disabled.
Addition of Innovation Waiver Slots – Any opportunity for more individuals living with intellectual and development disabilities (I/DD) to have access to needed services, the better.
The introduction of this bill is the first step in a long process. GAO will continue to monitor and support the I/DD slot provision which aligns with our access to care goals. Some of the other items are very controversial because they create a slippery slope on oversight.
To find out what you can do to encourage your legislators to support the introduction of this bill, contact Lee Dobson at email@example.com.
As home care clients, employees, caregivers, and family members, we know one thing for a fact: Home health aides do incredible, compassionate work that enable hundreds of thousands of residents across the country to stay at home and out of costlier, more infectious settings like nursing homes and hospitals. And we certainly know another fact: The work that aides do is invaluable, and it’s time that they begin to receive a fair wage for the hard work they do.
Low aide wages have recently made national headlines and the message is clear: We will need more and more home health aides as America’s population continues to age. But home health care providers are having trouble recruiting and retaining the quality, reliable workforce needed to keep up with the growing demand.
Recently, Hearts for Home Care advocate and BAYADA Home Health Care’s chief government affairs officer, Dave Totaro, submitted his opinion on the matter to STAT News, a media company focused on finding and telling compelling stories about health, medicine, and scientific discovery. He posed the question:
“To say that home health aides’ work is demanding is an understatement. They make it possible for 14 million Americans to stay in their homes and out of expensive and impersonal institutional settings like hospitals and nursing homes. Performing this necessary and in-demand work takes a physical and emotional toll, yet these individuals do it with compassion day in and day out.
So why do we treat home health aides as low-wage, low-value workers?”
The problem lies primarily in states’ low Medicaid funding for home care programs. Though states typically pay an hourly rate for providers who deliver home health aide services, these rates have largely been low for many years, or raised periodically, but at a rate too low to keep up with real costs of living and providing services. Because these rates must cover wages, training, benefits, new hire costs such as background checks and TB shots, and supplies, it is nearly impossible for home health care companies to take such a low rate and provide aides with a wage high enough to compete with industries like fast food and retail.
News coverage of the issue has been effective in bringing greater public awareness to the issue, especially as nearly all individuals will be touched by home care at least once in their lives, whether it be for themselves, a parent, friend, or other loved one. Now is the time to take awareness and turn it into action. Call your state legislator and let them know what home care means to you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on what you can do to share your voice and support home health aides.
Legislative successes, like the NC Medicaid rate increase for nursing in 2015 and 2016 and the home health aide increase this past year, don’t magically happen. Legislative successes start with an identified need — low Medicaid rates made it impossible to pay people what they are worth — and end with legislators supporting jobs in the community and keeping families together by investing in home health care. Every step along the way our Hearts for Home Care Advocates carried our unified message to decision-makers. Our cumulative actions over the years, including home and district visits, legislative round tables with lawmakers, responding to calls to action, attending lobby days, etc., made all the difference. Individually and collectively our shared voices got results. Join us to be a Heart for Home Care Advocate.
Last month the GAO Advisory Committee met to evaluate our 2017 efforts and to plan for 2018. The Advisory Committee is made up of representation of every practice in NC as well as representation from CMO and GAO. Below is a summary of their findings and the priorities for 2018.
2017 Legislative Accomplishments With your help we accomplished the following:
• Secured an increase for Medicaid aide services under the Personal Care Services (PCS) Program and the Community Alternatives Program for Children (CAP-C) from $13.88 to $15.52, effective August 1, 2017, and to $15.60 effective January 1, 2018. BAYADA impact: $300K annually. These increases will allow us to hire and retain more quality staff. • Protected Certificate of Need (CON) and prevented its elimination from health care. Also prevented the Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) from operating a home health agency without a CON. The CCRCs were seeking a carve-out from CON statute. Four separate bills were filed to eliminate this statute. BAYADA impact: Protected 5 service offices that serve Medicare clients. This issue is likely to re-surface in 2018. • Secured a 7.5% tax exclusion for health care services on all revenue. BAYADA impact: All 54 NC service offices will save a collective $12.6M annually.
2018 Key Legislative Priorities:
• Amend the Community Alternatives Program for Disabled Adults (CAP-DA) budget neutrality language to allow the aide rate to be increased from $13.88 to $15.60 to align with the PCS and CAP-C rate increases effective Oct. 1, 2018, by Q4-2018. • Secure a $1.40 increase for all Medicaid aide services from $15.60 to $17.00 effective Jan. 1, 2019, by Q3-2018. • Prevent the elimination of Certificate of Need (CON) for home health or hospice by Q3-2018. • Ensure that the Medicaid Transformation waiver includes a rate floor provision and language that ensures access to quality care and minimal administrative burden by Q4-2018.