|On Wednesday January 3rd , the Massachusetts Legislature returned for the second year of its two-year session. After a seven-week recess, the body is looking at a traditionally busier second half than the first. The nearly 170 bills that passed in 2017 marked the lowest total in twenty years.
Lawmakers have until July 31 to complete all substantial legislative debate. In addition, all 200 members are up for election in 2018, which is expected to be a distraction from normal legislative work as a result of a polarized political landscape. Here’s what the Alliance will be focused on in 2018:
Prior to the Holiday break, the Alliance met with its ‘Enough Pay to Stay’ partners to strategize coordinated efforts to attain wage relief for direct care workers and ASAP case managers. The coalition has pending legislation which would take steps toward this initiative, but we will pursue other legislative vehicles to fight for our workforce.
In November, Governor Baker signed into law the Home Care Worker Registry. This law will establish a worker registry that requires agencies contracting with ASAPs to submit workers’ private information to the state. The law is enacted and subject to regulations. The Alliance and its partners are in active communication regarding next steps toward protecting our members and their workers’ rights.
The FY 2018 State Budget included language that will establish a licensure process for home health agencies providing skilled services. It is unclear at this point when the process to promulgate regulations will begin, but the Alliance will be providing input to the Department of Public Health as these parameters are developed. In addition, Alliance-sponsored legislation that would license private care agencies is still making its way through the legislative process. Under procedural rules, the legislature has until February to report legislation out of committee. The Alliance will continue to advocate for passage of this legislation.
Continuous Skilled Nursing:
In late 2017, MassHealth announced two rate increases for the Continuous Skilled Nursing (CSN) program that totaled nearly 11 million. This was welcomed news, but there remains work to be done. The CSN provider/parent coalition will continue to advocate for the CSN Bill of Rights legislation that would mandate bi-annual reviews of the workforce to ensure safeguards against future crises.
The Alliance has been informed that MassHealth will conduct a long-overdue review of rates for per-visit nursing, therapies, and home health aide services. The Alliance will be working to gather data to demonstrate that the current low rates are interfering with agencies’ ability to attract and retain enough workers to meet the demand for services.
MassHealth’s initiative to enroll the majority of members into managed care programs this coming spring will dramatically change the way MassHealth members access home health services, and disrupt many existing provider referral relationships. The Alliance will continue to work to ensure that MassHealth members retain access to needed home health services, and that agencies are adequately reimbursed for those services.
House of Representative Health Care Bill:
Late last year the Senate passed a health care cost containment bill aimed at curbing costs while maintaining access. It has long been rumored that the House will be embarking on similar initiatives. Though the details are scarce, this legislation could be a vehicle for many of the Alliances priorities in 2018 and we will continue to advocate where necessary.
If you have any questions about the year ahead for advocacy or would like to get involved, reach out to Jake Krilovich, the Alliance’s Director of Legislative and Public Affairs.
The Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs held a public hearing on July 31, 2017. Several of the bills heard are of interest to home care.
The committee heard testimony on bills relating to:
- Home Care Licensure/Worker Registries:
- S.364/H. 341 An Act Strengthening the Massachusetts Home Care Program
- H. 344 An Act Relative to Consumer Protection and Home Care Services
- H. 1187 An Act relative to home health and hospice aides
- H. 2068 An Act Establishing a Home Care Aide Training Registry
- H. 2889 An Act Strengthening Home Care Services
- S.343 An Act Establishing a Home Care Aide Training Registry
- Home Care Workforce Bill (Enough Pay to Stay Initiative)
- H.350/S.352 An act Relative to Home Care
The Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts and some of its members testified on all of the bills, and you can read that testimony at the links below:
- 7/31: HCA Testimony on Worker Registry Legislation
- 7/31: HCA Testimony on H.350 Section 1: Enough Pay to Stay
- 7/31: HCA Member Testimony on H.350 Section 1: Enough Pay to Stay
- 7/31: HCA Testimony on Licensure Legislation
- 7/31: HCA Member Testimony on Licensure Legislation Part 1
- 7/31: HCA Member Testimony on Licensure Legislation
If you have any questions, or would like any further information about these legislative proposals, do not hesitate to reach out to Jake Krilovich at email@example.com.