What the Senate’s Economic Development Bill did for Home Care

July 15, 2016

Late Thursday night, the Senate wrapped up debate on more than 200 amendments to legislation promoting economic and workforce development and the Home Care Alliance was active on several issues.

Senate Bill 2423, “An Act relative to job creation, workforce development and infrastructure investment,” created a a special commission to investigate and report on barriers to meeting labor market demands in the commonwealth. The commission’s report can include a broad range of industries, but according to the legislation, it must consist of cyber-security, high technology and biotechnology, early education and care, home care and home health. Despite this focus, the “labor commission,” as it was labeled, did not have a member that represented the home care industry.

Working together with the Home Care Aide Council, and Senator Patricia D. Jehlen’s office, an amendment was adopted to get a home care agency representative on that commission. If the Senate’s legislation advances and is passed, this commission will be shining a light on home care workforce issues on a level of importance that places it with other industries.

The other amendment, which was of great concern, was an effort that would have created a publicly-available registry with the personal information of home care workers. It was the same provision that showed up in legislation and FY17 budget amendments – all of which were defeated.

In this particular iteration, the result was a redrafted amendment to create a registry of home care workers that does NOT include personal information, but rather certifications and whether that worker has ever committed abuse, mistreatment or neglect of an elderly patient or consumer.

The Alliance thanks the many agencies that weighed in quickly with their state senator by phone and email on both of these matters.

The Senate’s legislation now must pass a conference committee process where differences between S.2423 and the House’s version of the bill must be worked out.

Further updates will be shared when they become available.

Return to www.thinkhome.care.


Advocacy Alert: Gain Support for the Home Care Oversight Commission

June 6, 2016

The roughly $40 billion that will make up the legislature’s FY17 proposal must first go through a six-member “conference committee” that will negotiate on differences between the House and Senate budget versions.

Included in the Senate version was a special commission that will study, discuss, and make recommendations on separate policies for state-based oversight of home health and private-pay home care agencies. It will take advocacy to ensure that this important provision is included in the conference committee’s negotiated budget, and action can be taken through the HCA’s Advocacy Center.

Simply fill out the contact forms and hit “send” to help gain support for the Home Care Commission!

The Commonwealth is one of five states without either licensure or a “certificate of need” process for home health care services. Massachusetts has also recently experienced rapid growth in the number of “certified” home health agencies. The related and significant spike in MassHealth spending has forced the state to establish program integrity measures on these agencies.

Likewise, private-pay home care agencies across the state that provide mostly non-medical support services in the home have no state oversight and a study commission is needed to determine the best solution.

The Alliance will continue to update it’s members on this proposal.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


Senate Advances Home Care Commission in Budget

May 27, 2016

In a $39.5 billion budget, the Senate advanced Home Care Alliance priorities, namely a special commission that will study and make recommendations for state oversight of home care.

The commission would create a separate set of recommendations for certified home health and also private pay agencies. The group would include three representatives from each type of agency (certified and private-pay) as part of the membership along with policymakers, administration officials, and many others. During the Senate’s deliberations on more than 1,300 amendments, the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the MA Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

Unfortunately, efforts to gain payment increases for home health aides and homemakers were not approved despite collaboration with the Home Care Aide Council, Mass Home Care, and several dedicated Senate offices. Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem) spoke well in debate on behalf of a home health payment review and Senator Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) fought for inclusion of home health aide payment, in particular. Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) also helped lead an effort to advance home care rates.

On a positive note,an amendment was defeated that would have created a publicly-available registry of home care workers that aimed to list private information.

In addition, the Senate approved a pilot program of just over $1 million that expands income eligibility standards for services coordinated through Aging Service Access Points.

Other notable items in the Senate’s budget include the following:

  • A feasibility study on allowing spouses to be paid caregivers under MassHealth.
  • Allowing a leave of absence for nursing home residents under MassHealth (20 medical leave days and 10 non-medical leave days).
  • A fund created from fines and penalties relative to patient abuse in nursing homes that funds the prevention of such action through staff training and education, enhanced inspections, and relocating residents to other facilities.
  • $20.5 million for the Nursing Home Quality Jobs Initiative as part of SNF Supplemental Rates.
  • $200,000 for Geriatric Mental Health Services.

The HCA thanks its members for the hundreds of emails and phone calls to Senators during the past two weeks. The state budget process moves on to a conference committee process where the House and Senate negotiate differences between their two FY17 proposals. The Alliance will continue to push for the commission to establish oversight measures as well as other items to strengthen home care.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

 


Advocacy Alert: Help Gain Support for Home Care in the Senate Budget

May 20, 2016

ma budget pie chart picThe Massachusetts Senate is taking their turn in the fiscal year year 2017 state budget process with a $39.49 billion proposed starting point.

Senators have filed just over 1,100 amendments seeking to add a combination of funding and policy language that will be debated next week, but advocacy is needed to gain support for the issues critical to home care agencies.

The Home Care Alliance’s Advocacy Center features prepared emails focused on these issues that can automatically be sent to your state senator. Click here to send a message on all of HCA’s priorities – OR send a specific message to urge support for improved home health aide reimbursement or a study of MassHealth reimbursement for all home health services.

Here are explanations of the Alliance’s priority items:

MassHealth Reimbursement to Home Health Aides – Amendment #596 (Senator Barbara L’Italien)

  • Home Health Aide Rates have not been reviewed since 2007.
  • This amendment raises the rate MassHealth reimburses home health agencies for home health aide services by 12% at a cost to MassHealth of $3.66 million which after federal match becomes $7.32 million.
  • This increase would also effect the purchase of home health aide services ordered through the state network of Aging Service Access Points (ASAPs) at a cost of $5.25 million.

MassHealth Home Health Reimbursement Review – Amendment #470 (Senator Joan Lovely)

  • Home health care is a cost-effective service that allows people of all ages – from maternal-child health services and pediatric patients to the elderly –to remain independent in their homes where they are most comfortable and at a lesser expense to their families and the Commonwealth.
  • Payment rates have not been reviewed since 2007. Current rates are based off of 2005 data and were cut in 2008.

Homemaker Wage Increase – Amendment #591 (Senator Michael Barrett)

  • On average, this request will provide an increase of $.50 per hour to homemakers and personal care homemakers providing care to clients enrolled in the Elder Home Care Program
  • This budget request will include language to raise the EOEA average compensation mandate in ASAP contracts from $12.69 per hour to $13.19 an hour for FY17

The Home Care Alliance appreciates that the Senate Committee on Ways & Means included language for the Home Care Oversight Commission, which seeks to convene legislators and stakeholders to recommend separate standards for licensure for private-pay home care and Medicare-certified home health.

The HCA is also supporting amendments, including #597 (Sen. L’Italien) to expand eligibility for in-home elder services and #622 (Sen. Humason) to bring Massachusetts into the Nurse Licensure Compact.

Other noteworthy items in the Senate budget include the following:

  • $2.6M for Pediatric Palliative Care, an increase of $800K over FY 2016 funds to meet the needs of terminally ill children and their families and eliminate the wait list for these critical services.
  • $200,000 for the Nursing and Allied Health Workforce initiative through the Mass. Department of Higher Education. Senator Michael Moore has proposed an amendment (#136) to raise the amount to $400,00, but this item from Senate Ways & Means goes a long way to ensuring that the item will be funded at previous levels.
  • Following the Governor’s lead, the Senate consolidated the Elder Enhanced Home Care (ECOP) line item and moved that funding to other accounts.
  • Nursing Homes secured $30 million (half of which will come from an added assessment on facilities) for added CNA reimbursement.
  • Nursing Home Supplemental Rates matched the Governor’s FY17 proposal at $332.9 million, which is $15 million below what the House approved.
  • The Home & Community Based Services Policy Lab also received funding not included in the House budget, which will help the state study the cost-effectiveness of certain long-term services and supports.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


House Budget Denies Several Home Care Programs

April 27, 2016

Although the House budget process has yet to officially conclude, state representatives voted on items related to Health and Human Services, Public Health and Elder Affairs with barely any home care-related initiatives approved.

The traditionally conservative House budget process saw just over $12 million in additional money for all health care-related initiatives in general. The Home Care Alliance was itself asking for $8.9 million for home health aides, $10 million for homemaker wages and benefits – in conjunction with the Home Care Aide Council – and supported a number of amendments that were either low-cost or had no cost associated.

Beginning with the positive, an amendment creating a publicly-available home care workforce registry was denied. The Home Care Alliance was opposed to allowing the public access to the personal information of home care workers proposed in this amendment, including full legal name, date of birth, home address and gender of these workers.

Also, $200,000 was reinstated for Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Development that has funded improved access to education and training for direct care workers as well as nurses. One such example of a program funded through this item was the Home Health Nurse Residency Program that is run by VNA of Boston/VNA Care Network.

In the elder services category, $750,000 was provided to “meals on wheels” and the House approved a study of expanding income eligibility standards for home care services contracted through Aging Service Access Points.

Meanwhile, the House denied a commission to study oversight options for home health and private-pay home care, a raise for both home health aides and homemakers, a study of home health rates from MassHealth, and a boost in funding for pediatric palliative care.

The budget discussion and focus will turn to the Senate and the Alliance will be sending advocacy alerts to inform members and advocates about how they can help advance important policy priorities.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


Contact Your State Rep to Support Home Care in the FY17 State Budget

April 19, 2016

The Massachusetts House is preparing for debate next week on their $39.4 billion state budget proposal and the 1,307 amendments that were filed on a range of different issues from home care to homelessness.

Please visit the Home Care Alliance’s Advocacy Center and send a message to your state rep to urge their support of the HCA’s priority issues. Simply click on any of the top four issues on the Advocacy Center, fill out your contact information, hit SEND, and an email will automatically be sent to the legislator representing you!

The top message (“Please Support Home Care in the FY17 Budget”) includes all the HCA’s priorities, or you can choose from other single-issue messages. There are explanations of each message and you can read the actual message before sending.

The Alliance posted a summary of the House budget proposal that will be debated next week and other updates will be posted as they become available.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


Breakdown of Governor Baker’s FY17 State Budget for Home Care

January 29, 2016

Confronting a $635 million budget gap and steep spending increases in several areas, including MassHealth, Governor Charlie Baker’s administration released a $39.5 billion budget plan that aims to reduce growth while investing in more efficient programs.

On a conference call with stakeholders, state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders thanked the Home Care Alliance for collaboration on a package of proposed solutions that are slated to go into effect by March 1st. As noted in previous newsletters and emails to HCA members, MassHealth is seeking to establish a prior authorization process, a moratorium on new home health providers, and a conflict-free physician referral process. This includes a closer scrutiny on medication administration visits and clients with a high utilization rate of home health aides.

Secretary Sudders reported on the call that audits will be conducted effective immediately. She also explained that there are currently 195 certified home health agencies in the Commonwealth and 12 were referred to the MassHealth Fraud Unit under the state’s Attorney General’s Office. The HCA will continue to monitor audit activity and provide pertinent updates.

More generally in the Health and Human Services budget, MassHealth Managed Care and MassHealth Senior Care are receiving funding increases while the Fee-for-Service line item continues to decrease reflecting a move to programs like Senior Care Options (SCO), OneCare and other managed care services.

In the elder services line items, the Enhanced Home Care or ECOP program was consolidated into several line items by the Baker administration. The bulk of what was a $70 million line item went to Home Care Purchased Services and Case Management under the Aging Service Access Points (ASAPs).

Below are some other notable items related to home care in the Governor’s FY17 budget:

  • Nursing Home Supplemental Rates increased by $30 million. This is due to an increase to assessments on SNFs.
  • The line item for MassHealth Managed Care increases $149.1 million and the MassHealth Senior Care account rises by $160.4 million, while the MassHealth Fee-for-service item goes down by $113.7 million.
  • Elder Protective Services funding was increased by $4.9 million.
  • DPH’s Pediatric Palliative Care Network was essentially level-funded at $1.8 million.
  • Elder Nutrition (Meals on Wheels) was also nearly level funded at $7.2 million.
  • The Nursing and Allied Health Education Workforce Development item was eliminated. Last year it was funded at $200,000 by the legislature after being zeroed out by the Governor.

The budget process moves on to the House and Senate and further updates  – on both the budget as well as the HCA’s work with MassHealth on program changes to home health services – will be shared as information becomes available.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

 


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