Lawmakers returned to Raleigh on January 9 for the 2019-2021
long legislative session. We expect to
see some changes in committee assignments and leadership, especially in the
House Appropriations for Health & Human Service (HHS), with the election
defeat of Chairman Nelson Dollar.
Dollar–the former chairman of the House Appropriation
Committee—has transitioned from the public sector to a senior policy advisor to
the Speaker of the House Tim Moore.
Dollar has been a home care champion for years and was named BAYADA’s Legislator
of the Year in 2016 and 2018 for his efforts. He was instrumental in
securing much needed Medicaid reimbursement rates increases for nursing and
aide services. He has also been instrumental in protecting from elimination the
Certificate of Need (CON) process for our Medicare offices. His expertise and knowledge on complex issues
at the statehouse will serve North Carolina well. As you may recall, Dollar
lost his seat by 884 votes last November to Democrat Julie von Haefen.
While we are sad to see our former Champion lose this leadership position, there are other home care Champions that we anticipate seeing in key roles. We expect to see Representatives Donny Lambeth and Josh Dobson as co-chairs of HHS. Further, we anticipate Senators Ralph Hise and Joyce Krawiec in chair positions serving the Finance and/or Health Committees. All four legislators are well-versed in home care and the challenges our clients and staff regularly face throughout North Carolina due to our collective advocacy efforts. This puts BAYADA in a great position to move forward with our next round of asks.
Our major reimbursement priority this session is to increase the Medicaid private duty nursing (PDN) rate from $39.60 to $45.00 over the course of two years. This increase is necessary to help us recruit and retain the high quality, compassionate nurses we need to care for the many North Carolinians that need skilled care to stay at home.
Sharing your voice is key to achieving our goals: Be sure to look for opportunities to advocate as we seek to support our clients and staff. Of note, please save the date and be sure to look out for communications regarding our Legislative Day, which will be held in Raleigh on May 1.
Whether you worry about your aging parents’ ability to remember to take their medication on time or you have a medically-complex child that requires 24-7 skilled nursing care, families that rely on home care across the country are feeling the squeeze: There just aren’t enough quality in-home caregivers, and it is quickly becoming a crisis. While more of the general public is beginning to understand the negative impact this is having on our communities, there is much more to be done to mitigate the impending consequences. Together, we can advocate to combat this looming access-to-care crisis.
We’ve read the articles and we know the facts. Home care is the most cost-effective and patient-preferred healthcare setting for individuals and families who want to remain at home. This is true for older Americans who wish to age in place to parents who believe their child should live at home and not be raised in costly institutional settings. Moreover, demand for in-home caregivers will be continue to increase as baby boomers age and better treatments for chronic illnesses and disabilities continue to become more widely available.
If home health care is in high demand, why are we still facing a shortage of available workers? Home care providers struggle to recruit and retain enough quality caregivers to keep up with the growing demand. Because many insurance companies still do not cover in-home healthcare services, many home care providers rely on government reimbursement rates to cover provided services. That is: When a patient is prescribed and authorized for in-home care, the state reimburses the home care provider for delivering that service. The provider relies on that reimbursement rate to not only pay the direct care worker’s wages, benefits, supplies, and training, but also to cover wages and costs for the workers needed to coordinate and supervise in-home staff.
While rates vary widely depending on the service and the state the care is delivered in, there is a dominant trend that contributes to providers’ inability to keep up with demand: State governments’ reimbursement rates are too low to attract and retain the proper, high-quality workforce necessary to deliver this care. And there are several competitors at play: Hospitals and other institutional settings like nursing homes are able to pay workers more because one caregiver can deliver multiple services to multiple people during one shift, so institutions are able to rely on multiple reimbursements to cover employee wages and costs. Additionally, the home care industry faces competition from non-healthcare industries like fast food companies and retailers, which can often pay workers at competitive rates and offer more consistent schedules and other benefits.
While home health care offers one-on-one care to vulnerable individuals at a lower cost, these reimbursement rates have stagnated and fallen past the cost-of-living across many states. Some states, have not addressed reimbursement rates for decades, putting home care providers at even more of a disadvantage when competing for labor. For example, California has not increased its reimbursement rate for Medicaid home nursing services for nearly two decades. Even the most compassionate home care workers who enjoy the personalized nature of home care are leaving the industry for better-paying jobs in neighboring states and in other settings and industries.
Who can resolve this issue? By and large, state governments are responsible for making decisions that affect home care, including reviewing reimbursement rates and adjusting them so that home health care providers can attract the workforce necessary to keep vulnerable state populations at home. While the rates vary in each state, one thing is consistent across state lines: legislators, who are responsible for making these decisions, are under great pressure to keep state budgets in line while making the necessary expenditures to all of the departments, industries, and populations that need the government’s financial support. All too often, other industries’ voices are heard louder, and home health care continues to fall by the wayside.
Is there any good news? Yes: People are beginning to see the problem. Public awareness of the importance of home care and of the impending access-to-care crisis is becoming more widespread. People care about the issue now more than ever before, and people across the country are beginning to realize that, even if it doesn’t affect them now, home care will impact their lives in the future.
Reports, studies, and articles have made information about the home care industry and the widening labor gap more available. Mercer Health Provider Advisory recently created an interactive map that visually depicts the deficit of home health aides and other healthcare workers in specific states and across the US through 2024. Articles have come out in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, and in local news outlets in South Carolina and Rhode Island, among other states.
And the other good news is evident to many: Home care is simply the right choice. Many legislators are aware of home care’s cost-saving potential, especially as home care keeps people out of costlier institutional settings and prevents ER stays and hospital admissions. And while they may understand the advantages that home care offers families in general, not all legislators realize the impact home care has on the families that they directly represent as public officials.
Public awareness isn’t enough. Action is necessary. Studies, reports, articles, and direct lobbying efforts from home care providers and state and federal associations and partnerships have raised the public’s and legislators’ awareness of home care as a service. However, lawmakers’ awareness of home care issues have not yet spurred them into taking action to address stagnating reimbursement rates and providers’ inability to compete for a fair share of the labor market. We must leverage our collective voices by truly showing legislators what home care is, how it impacts us, and what happens if families can’t access care. Legislators must change laws and policies to reprioritize home health care for their constituents.
What can you do? Join the movement. As individuals, we are responsible for telling our elected officials what is important to us and what those we elect to office should prioritize and champion. Advocating for home care is easy: Call your state and federal representatives and senators to request a meeting to discuss home care, or even simply send a letter, an email, or even a Facebook message or Tweet to let them know about what home care means to you. The Hearts for Home Care platform was specifically created to help members of the home care community learn about opportunities to get involved in home care advocacy. There are plenty of ways big and small to get involved, the most important thing is that we share our voices with one unified message: Home care is important to me, and it should be important to you too.
Angela Ortiz is a fierce advocate for her medically complex daughter, Ayla, and for other medically complex children and adults across Massachusetts.
Earlier this month, Angela delivered her keynote address at the 40th Annual Legislative Reception held by the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council and The Arc of Massachusetts.
Angela’s inspiring speech, delivered in front of over 200 people, including several state legislators and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, was met with uproarious applause and overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Angela stated, “One mother shared with me that she used to have that fight and fire within her when her daughter was younger, but that her flames had since burned out. She shared that my speech really spoke to her and reminded her of how important it is to find it again. I hope that sharing my story and my journey will inspire others to take action… No matter how slow-seeming your journey may be, it’s important we remember why we advocate: To give a voice to those without one.”
Angela is the founder of the Massachusetts Pediatric Home Nursing Care Campaign that was launched in April 2016 to address the longstanding crisis families have been in struggling to find and retain Continued Skilled Nursing to properly care for their loved ones with complex medical needs at home.
Below is the full transcript of her keynote address.
Next month will mark two years since I entered the State House with a group of parents from the Mass Families Organizing for Change Leadership Series. I was a mother desperate to improve the quality of life for my daughter, Ayla, who was just two at the time, and very sick.
I was drowning in my own worries and fears that came with her complex medical needs, but more so in the inability to access vital home care services she was approved to receive yet didn’t come.
Imagine being thrown into the deepest of seas and when you call out for help there aren’t enough life vests to go around or enough lifeboats to bring you and your family to safety.
I felt so powerless…until…I entered this building. It’s the day I became an advocate!
I was equipped with a vision for my daughter and new tools and the confidence to be a part of some kind of change to address a burning need that affects her life and so many other medically fragile children and adults in the Commonwealth.
That day ignited a flame so deep within me…and I’ve been “FIRED UP” ever since.
I’ll never forget a moment I shared with Ayla shortly after her heart surgery. I put my index finger in the palm of her tiny hand, we locked eyes seeing past all the tubing and drains, and she wrapped her fingers around it and squeezed with such intensity. Wow! At just 3 days old…my fragile and recovering newborn showed her FIRE and fighting spirit…that energy moved me. It strengthened me. It gave me hope that things would work out and be okay.
You see, we all have it in us…this FIRE!
And today, I want to remind you of that and call attention to it in hopes that each of you will set out to find what it is that sparks or rekindles the flame within you. Because when it happens, it’s an unstoppable force, you feel you can move through anything, no hurdle is too high no matter what your life circumstances are in that moment. You find a way! It’s so deeply rooted in love, you can’t help but burst into action and be a part of something bigger than yourself and your own lived experience.
There is no greater time to awaken your inner fire and unleash that advocate in you than when your life or the life of a loved one depends on it. And that time is now!
I’m counting on all your flames, and more importantly, the disability community is counting on them because it’s in our collective energy, strength, and spirit where I believe the resolve lies as we blaze through every obstacle that aims to unravel and weaken the civil rights of people with disabilities that so many before us have fought so long and hard for.
Yes, we face an uncertain future, but the one thing we have control over is our own certainty of being there, in some way, to do something; to take a stand; to have a voice; to be ready to take action to defend the current laws and protections in place while we also continue to advocate and lay the groundwork for new laws and protections that keep us moving forward.
Each one of you has a place and purpose on this advocacy journey! Whether you are just stepping on it for the first time or you’ve been paving the way for years, as Ayla’s favorite song demands…“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine”. DO JUST THAT…let your light shine, let it shine, let it shine.
You will be a moving force…we will be a moving force… and the future will be bright.
For information about how you can begin your journey into home care advocacy, contact email@example.com.
Additionally, follow our Facebook and Twitter to keep up with regular updates about how you can get involved.
On February 21, seven BAYADA Home Health Care employees, one of whom is a parent and caregiver of a medically complex child, testified in front of a dozen Delaware state legislators and nearly 80 community members to advocate for a Medicaid reimbursement rate increase for registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs).
The Delaware Joint Finance Committee met to hear the Department of Health and Social Services’ (DHSS) annual budget request in what ended up being a crowded room that drew so many members of the public that overflow seating had to be provided in the cafeteria, where a live video feed of the hearing was streamed. Though a few of these advocates were initially hesitant to speak in front of legislators- let alone such a crowd- what kept them going is their commitment to advocating on behalf of home care nurses, their clients, and their clients’ loved ones.
These advocates’ testimonies detailed their personal stories of why the committee should include additional funds to DHSS’s budget to be used to increase the state’s reimbursement rates for RN and LPN care by about 25%. Delaware’s current rates have not been increased in more than ten years, and these current rates are not adequate to keep up with demand for in-home nursing care because of the pressure that low rates place on providers’ ability to recruit and retain quality nurses. With a rate increase for RN and LPN care, providers would be able to attract more nurses to deliver the in-home care that pediatric, adult, and senior home care clients need.
BAYADA registered nurse Jen Saulsbury shared a moving story about two of her pediatric clients and the impact that nursing turnover rates, which stem from Delaware’s low reimbursement rates, has on them. She shared a crayon-drawn card from one of her pediatric clients to accompany her story, which nearly brought the committee to tears.
Committee co-chair Representative Melanie George-Smith and Senator Nicole Poore vocalized their support of increased reimbursement rates for RN and LPN care. It goes to show that advocacy is a powerful force in creating the changes necessary to support home care employees, clients, and their families.
Advocacy is powerful. The stories that these advocates shared in front of the committee were not those of data, numbers, and dollar signs, but rather their unique, passionate perspectives of why this issue is so important that it deserves legislative attention and action.
Advocacy doesn’t necessarily involve testifying in front of a crowded room. It can be sharing your unique story or picture with us, writing an email to a legislator, or participating in a meeting to talk about issues you face every day. A state-funded nursing rate increase cannot happen without getting other passionate individuals involved. If you would like to find out how you can to advocate for better home care laws and regulations, let’s talk about how you can get involved. Email me today!
Home health care companies around the country struggle to recruit and retain enough qualified workers to support the growing number of children, adults and seniors that want to be cared for in their own homes. Recruitment and retention issues stem from a number of reasons, including the nationwide nursing shortage, low US unemployment rates, and inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates that leave home care providers in a position where their wages cannot compete with those of other settings and industries.
BAYADA Home Health Care was recently featured in a Wall Street Journal article for the company’s efforts in solving for this by recruiting nurses from Puerto Rico to fill open nursing positions in Minneapolis. The island’s unemployment rate, currently at 10.8% is much higher than that of Minneapolis, which is currently listed at 2.4%.
A 2.4% unemployment rate is low even compared to the US rate, which is currently at a 17-year low of 4.1%. This low unemployment rate is compounded by the fact that in many states, Medicaid reimbursement rates are too low for home care providers to be able to recruit and retain workers, who can be paid a higher wage in other settings, like hospitals, and industries, like fast food and retail.
What can you do to help? Share your voice. Reimbursement rate review and adjustment decisions are generally made in state capitols when legislators determine that such a need exists. This need must be communicated to legislators so that they understand the pressing nature of the issue and what could happen to the state’s Medicaid population if the issue is not addressed.
We can help you reach your legislators to let them know what increased reimbursement rates mean for you and your community. And if you would like to make an even bigger impact, consider meeting your lawmakers in-person at our Lobby Day. We take care of the scheduling and preparations- all you need to do is show up and share your voice. Upcoming Lobby Days are as follows:
Minneapolis, Minnesota: 3/6/18
Dover, Delaware: 3/14/18
Columbus, South Carolina: 4/4/18
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: 5/22/18
Raleigh, North Carolina: 5/30/18
New Jersey: District office visits 4/20-5/4/18
Contact Rick Hynick to find out what you can do to advocate, whether it be sharing your personal story, contacting your legislators, or participating in an upcoming state Lobby Day!
Increased wages for pediatric home nurses can bring more hospitalized children back home to their parents.
ThinkAdvisor recently published an article about numerous cases across the country in which hospitalized children are cleared to return home but cannot due to the severe shortage of home care nurses. This means that these children must live in the hospital or other institution until they can get the nursing care they need at home. This lack of available skilled nurses has created a huge financial and emotional strain on these children’s parents and families.
So where are these nurses? Making higher wages in other settings and industries. Even though home nursing is almost always less expensive than hospital care, private insurance rarely covers the service and Medicaid pays very little for it. This leaves few nurses willing to work for these low wages, especially when they can receive higher pay in other settings or other industries entirely.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! Increasing the reimbursement rate for in-home nurses is possible, and increased wages increase parents’ access to in-home nursing care for their child. In Pennsylvania, for example, BAYADA home health care employees, clients, and clients’ family members advocated for a pediatric nursing rate increase and received a $5 per hour increase. BAYADA saw open hours for the program decrease by nearly 50% for one of our largest payors.
A parent coalition in Massachusetts successfully advocated for increased reimbursement rates after over a decade of stagnant rates. But in Massachusetts, the increase still is not enough—parents say that the wages remain too low to attract and retain enough home nurses for their state’s medically complex pediatric population.
In Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and in other states around the nation fighting an in-home nursing shortage, advocacy is the key. It’s important that we raise our voices about this issue so that legislators can understand what home care means to parents of medically complex children.
If you are interested in finding out what you can do to help bring these children home, let’s chat! Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent conversations with MCC Waiver Administrator Michelle White have revealed that the time is right to explore making significant changes in the nursing reimbursement model. GAO has formed two workgroups to analyze and evaluate options to address Medicaid policy and its reimbursement model for nursing.
First, we’ve formed a BAYADA technical expert group representing the relevant practices and leadership to help inform BAYADA’s recommendations. The second group is a larger provider workgroup within the SC Association for Home Care & Hospice. As a SCAHHC Board member, I have been asked to co-chair this workgroup to draft industry recommendations. BAYADA will draw from its internal workgroup to inform the conversation with the industry and Medicaid. This is a great opportunity to address the challenges and recommend a unified solution to DHHS that can be a win-win for providers, the state, and ultimately- clients.
Thank you to the SC Advisory Council and the workgroups! I look forward to working with you to develop recommendations that will lead to better outcomes for our staff, clients and their families!
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.
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:
At the end of June, 2017, through the efforts of our Ambassadors, our industry partners, our clients, and our legislative champions, the Rate Floor Bill passed the Delaware General Assembly.
This year, in the second year of Delaware’s two-year legislative session, our major legislative goal is to achieve an increase in the Medicaid fee schedule for RN and LPN hourly care. These two rates have stagnated since 2006. We are asking the legislature to update both according to the Consumer Price Index. Doing so would move LPN care from $46.14 to $56.01 and RN care from $51.50 to $62.51 per hour.
Our initial meetings with key members of the Joint Finance Committee have been very positive. We are working with them to include increased funding for this request in this year’s budget. If successful, our MCO contracts would have to be renegotiated so that reimbursement would be equal to or greater than the new fee schedule amounts.
This session, our major legislative goal in Maryland is to increase the Medicaid LPN rate across all programs and client groups from $34.16 to $42.81. It is an ambitious goal—initial budget estimates place the cost to the state at $26 million per year. With neighboring states reimbursing LPN care at $45, $46.14 and $50 per hour, it is easy to see why there is such a problem of access to care across Maryland. The low reimbursement simply does not support a sufficient wage to be able to consistently recruit and retain the skilled nurses that we need to be able to commit to serving a larger number of clients.
Problems within the Maryland Department of Health and a general lack of transparency have hindered this effort in past months. There have been a few targeted data points essential to such a large budget ask that BAYADA and Maryland-National Capital Homecare Association (MNCHA) through our best efforts, have been unable to obtain.
We started this session asking key legislative champions to help us get this information, using their political pressure to get information from the Department of Health or to introduce legislation that would establish an oversight working group to investigate the issue. Several legislators have been deeply troubled by the idea of children and adults with disabilities being unable to access the skilled nursing care they need to remain at home safely and have stepped up to help. This information, and the support we are gaining from those in key positions to move this effort through to becoming law, is a key step in increasing this LPN rate.
Thank you to Ambassadors Dan Guidebeck, Nikita Mutter, and Matt Paske for joining in legislative meetings and sharing the stories of how this issue impacts our clients and employees. Your commitment to advocacy reminds me of why we do what we do every day.