State Budget Update
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:
1. H70 – Delay NC HealthConnex for Certain Providers, sponsored by Representatives Dobson, Murphy, White, and Lambeth
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.