MA Attorney General Announces Earned Sick Time ‘Transition Year’

May 18, 2015

At the first of a string of public hearings to provide input on proposed regulations on the forthcoming earned sick time law, Attorney General Maura Healey announced a “transition year” for employers already offering paid time-off.

The Attorney General explained that for the period of July 1 when the law goes into effect until December 31, 2015, “any employer with a paid time off policy in existence as of May 1, 2015, providing to employees the right to use at least 30 hours of paid time off during the calendar year 2015 shall be in compliance with the law with respect to those employees and to any other employees to whom the use of at least 30 hours of paid time off under the same conditions are extended.”

Further details are available on a bulletin released on the AG’s earned sick time webpage.

The AG also revealed the intent of her office to avoid a six-month delay in implementing the law, as has been requested by some business advocacy groups. With Healey holding firm on not delaying the law’s implementation, and with some major business groups endorsing the “transition year” move, it was very likely a compromise to grant some leniency to employers.

For more information on the earned sick time law as well as how you can submit comments and help the HCA comment, see this previous blog post.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


Advocacy Alert: Email your Senator to Support Home Care in the Senate Budget

May 15, 2015

The Alliance has worked with home care champions in the Senate to file amendments to the Ways & Means budget to improve home health care services. The HCA now needs home care agencies and advocates to send a message to gain support these proposals TODAY by clicking here!

Below is a list of the items the Alliance will be leading on and supporting in the FY16 Senate budget process.

Restoring Home Nursing Rates: Senator Jennifer Flanagan

•    Purpose: This budget language seeks to restore the MassHealth rate for home health nursing visits past 60 calendar days of care to the payment level prior to the rate cut of December 1, 2008. This amendment creates a consistent rate for as long as an individual on MassHealth requires home health care.

Improved MassHealth Rates for Home Health Aide Services: Senator Barbara L’Italien

•    Purpose: Since 2007, home health aide rates to agencies from MassHealth have remained at $24.40 per hour, which is meant to cover aide salary, benefits, travel, supervision and administrative costs for the employing home health agency. This amendment seeks to raise the rate MassHealth reimburses home health agencies for home health aide services by 12% at a cost to MassHealth of $1.75 million.

Study of MassHealth Third Party Liability: Senator Anne Gobi

•    Purpose: A study is necessary because correct reimbursement coverage determinations for Medicare/Medicaid dual eligibles are far more complex in home health care than in other medical services as the services and program coverage rules are very similar. The process of submitting all or most MassHealth home health claims for review and re-review to Medicare is highly costly to both agencies and the state. The rate of Medicare coverage has also been steadily declining.

Homemaker Salary Reserve: Senator Michael Barrett

•    Purpose: Appropriate $3 million from the Community First Trust Fund for a FY16 Homemaker Salary Reserve.  This request will continue a campaign to support essential workers by providing an annualized wage and benefit increase of approximately 32 cents an hour to over 26,000 homemakers and personal care homemakers.

Community-Based Safety Net Adjustment: Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives

•    Purpose: Treat non-profit home health agencies that provide a significant number of home health visits to MassHealth patients as safety-net providers eligible for upward rate adjustments.

FMAP Trust Fund: Senator Michael Rodrigues

•    Purpose: On January 1, 2014, Massachusetts began receiving an enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for certain Medicaid expansion populations through the ACA.  This amendment creates a trust fund to house this funding and dedicate it to Medicaid and low-income health programs.

Expand Elder Service Home Care Income Eligibility: Senator Barbara L’Italien

•    Purpose: Raise the income eligibility standard for State Home Care Program services funded by Elder Affairs to those below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level.

For more information on what was included in the Senate Ways & Means budget, visit this previous blog post.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


2015 Innovation Showcase & Star Awards Photos are Here!

May 14, 2015

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HCA held its annual recognition event to honor the best and brightest individuals and programs in the home care industry. We acknowledged the work of certain individuals and agencies, but in doing so we celebrate all of home care, what it is and how we make a difference in so many lives.

Home care in Masachusetts has a long and proud history dating back over a century. The four programs and seven individuals that we recognized are both part of that great lineage and helping to shape a future for home centered care that is even more vibrant and impactful. They are working across the continuum to improve the post hospital transitions for patients and their families to promote rehabilitation and recovery. They are managing complex chronic illnesses
in ways that support independence, and they are expanding what it means to be a community-based provider. Most remarkably, as Pamela Mann, will reminded us at the ceremony, they do it all while holding on to the compassion, and high touch approach that has been the hallmark of the home health experience for more than a century.
Congratulations to all our Stars. You make us proud to be associated with you.

The pictures from this great event are available on our Facebook page. Click HERE to view them!

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Photos courtesy of HCA Staff and Brendan Fournier


Senate Ways & Means Budget Includes Wins for Home Care

May 12, 2015

The Home Care Alliance is proud to announce that the Senate Committee on Ways & Means included language for one of the organization’s priority issues that will help strengthen private-pay home care.

An “outside section” in the Senate Ways & Means Committee budget establishes a Commission to study and make recommendations for state oversight options for private-pay home care agencies. The language closely mirrors what the Alliance proposed. Also, it represents a huge step towards attaining not just minimum standards and consumer protection, but greater recognition that private pay home care is an option for families and individuals who need assistance.

Other positive notes came from the Senate’s proposed budget as well. The line item funding the Pediatric Palliative Care Program was increased by $250,000 over what the House approved. The Mass. Department of Higher Education’s “Nursing and Allied Health Workforce” line item was allotted $200,000 after being zeroed out by the Governor and matches the House’s appropriation.

ma budget pie chart picThe Senate also included $150,000 in funding for the “Home and Community-Based Services Policy Lab,” which aims, in part, to study the effectiveness and value of state-funded community-based services.

In the elder services category, the Senate’s proposed budget ups the House in the Home Care Purchased Services account by $3 million along with an additional $866,677 in the Home Care Case Management and Administration account. The other notable increase from the Senate Ways & Means budget is in the elder nutrition program (meals on wheels), which came in $121,889 above the House.

In MassHealth, both the Managed Care and the Senior Care accounts were level-funded. The Senate increased the MassHealth Fee-for-Service line item, which has traditionally governed home health nursing rates, by $481.5 million over the House. However, without specific language for home health included, it would appear an amendment needs to be proposed to raise those MassHealth payment rates.

Outside sections that are mentionable include language to create a “MassHealth savings report” that aims to find savings and cash management strategies in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services budget by October 1, 2015. There is also a commission established to oversee the Center for Health Information and Analysis, whose mission it is to be the clearinghouse for quality, affordability, utilization, access, and outcomes information of the state’s health care system.

The Alliance will look to propose amendments to increase MassHealth rates for home health aides along with restoring skilled nursing rates from the 2008 payment cut. The Alliance also plans to play a supporting role in raising wages for homemakers and creating transparency on federal healthcare reform funding.

Stay tuned for advocacy alerts with details on sending emails urging your state senator to support home care in the state budget.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


Companion Services Lawsuit Update

May 8, 2015

The following Update was published in the National Association for Home Care, NAHC Report on May 7, 2015.  

A three-judge panel heard oral argument on Thursday at the US Court of Appeals in  DC  on NAHC’s challenge to the validity of new Department of Labor rules governing overtime compensation for “companionship services” and “live-in domestic services.” The case involves the government’s appeal of the federal District Court ruling that sided with NAHC and invalidated both rules that were scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2015. NAHC is joined in the lawsuit by the International Franchise Association and the Home Care association of America.

In the appeal, the Department of Labor (DoL) is represented by the US Justice Department. NAHC and its co-plaintiffs are represented by Maurice Baskin of Littler Mendelson and Bill Dombi, Director of NAHC’s Center for Health Care Law.

The judges expressed a great deal of interest in the DoL rule change affecting live-in services. It appeared the reason for their interest was two-fold. First, that rule had not been previously addressed by the US Supreme Court, in contrast to the Supreme Court ruling in a 2007 case brought by NAHC  challenging  union efforts to stop application of the “companionship services” overtime exemption with workers employed by home care companies. Second, the language in the law on live-in domestic services is different than the law on the companionship services exemption as to the power of DoL to “define and delimit” terms.

Both sides presented strong arguments on the case indicating that the matter presents complex and difficult issues of law. NAHC’s arguments focused on the impact of the rule change on consumers of home care and the rules’ complete eradication of the overtime exemptions in the face of congressional actions to retain it for nearly 40 years.  The DoL counsel argued that DoL has the power to fill definitional gaps in the law with respect to such terms as “companionship services” and which employees the overtime exemption applied to. That focus was intended to take advantage of standards of law that give deference to federal agency interpretations where the plain language of the law passed by Congress does not full provide the needed interpretation.

It is expected that the Court of Appeals will issue a ruling in the next two months as the Court goes on recess in July. In the event that NAHC is successful in defeating the government’s appeal, it can be anticipated that DoL will make an effort to gain review before the Supreme Court. NAHC and its partners are also committed to take all steps available to prevent the challenged rules from taking effect, including an appeal to the Supreme Court if needed. Stay tuned to NAHC Report for any developments in this important litigation.


A Salute to Our Stars!

May 6, 2015

This week as the entire health care community pauses to recognize the commitment, value and professionalism of our nation’s nurses, the Home Care Alliance would like to acknowledge the seven individuals who were recognized with Star Awards at our annual celebration in Boston on April 28th.  In the words of HCA of MA President Jeanne Ryan,  these seven individuals  “show us the breadth of what home care is at its best.”

The 2015 Star Award Winners are:

Clinicians of the Year:  Janet Fuller, RN Case Manager, Medical Resources Home Health, Newton, and Patricia G. Martin, RN, Hospice Nurse, Community Nurse & Hospice Care, Fairhaven

Aide of the Year:  Judith Clervil, Lead Certified Nursing Assistant, Residential Support Services, Inc., Chelsea

Manager of the Year:  Michelle Landry, Rehabilitation Manager, Brockton VNA, Brockton

Physician of the Year:  Cara Chevalier, MD, Medical Director, Hallmark Health VNA & Hospice, Malden

Legislator of the Year:  US Senator Elizabeth Warren

Home Care Champion:  Tim Burgers, Associate Director, Home Care Alliance of MA

Truly these individuals stand in for all the home care nurses, therapists, aides, physicians and managers who bring so much care and comfort to the ill and afflicted.

Congratulations to you all!  we will be proud to feature our Clinicians and Aide of the Year on the covers of our 2016 Resource Directories!

Pat Kelleher
Executive Director, HCA of MA


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