Senate Ways & Means Budget Includes Wins for Home Care

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.

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