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.
Shannon Gahs, Patty Watson, and Ali Knott met with Rep. David Bentz (top right) to thank him for his support of home health care
The Delaware General Assembly typically closes late into the evening on its June 30 deadline, giving the last day of session extra drama, a party for winners and a night of stomach-wrenching stress for those hoping for a last-minute miracle. Typically what keeps them in session is debate over the state’s annual budget. This year, the budget process was different in two ways- first, the state had a surplus of funds because of changes to the federal tax code; second, the budget passed with three days to spare. Most of the $20 million in unexpected funds went to long-overdue pay raises for state employees and teachers. The legislature also passed paid parental leave for state employees, filled open state positions that investigate child abuse and neglect and that staff juvenile detention facilities, and shored up programs that benefit those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and that improve reading and special education. Much of the public debate in Dover this year was around gun rights and legalizing marijuana.
This year, we asked the legislature for a 21 percent increase in the RN and LPN home care reimbursement rates, an ask that would cost the state about $3.1 million annually. BAYADA Delaware leaders and our Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors educated and advocated by giving testimony at a Joint Finance Committee hearing, meeting with legislators and being active on social media campaigns. The legislature, with the stated intent of being economically frugal and with an eye on whether they were constraining future legislatures by increasing recurring expenses, looked more favorably on one-time expenses and grants this year. We did not get the increase. We did, however, build support with many legislators. At the end of session, five legislators committed to meet together in the fall to determine strategy for how to improve rates for nurses who are currently reimbursed at the same levels as they were 13 years ago.
The end of June saw the ends of legislative careers for more than 25 percent of the legislature through retirements and public intentions not to run for re-election. Primary Day for Delaware is September 6. The general election is November 6, 2018. All 41 seats in the House and half of the Senate are on the ballot this year. To learn more about your ballot, your polling place, and other voter information, click here. If you have any questions about this session or our legislative priorities for Delaware, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Both Delaware and Maryland have opened their 2018 legislative sessions and our advocacy work is in full swing. Delaware’s legislature will be open until June 30 in the second year of its two-year legislative session. The Maryland General Assembly is already nearly 20% over—as of today, there are 74 days left in the 90-day session.
Both sessions have been very busy already. Delaware and Maryland Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors and I have been working hard to reach legislators to educate and inform them about what home care means to our clients and families, and about what can be done to address the issues our industry faces every day.