The Better Care Better Job Act Deserves Your Support

GO HERE to support the Better Care Better Jobs Act with just a few clicks of your mouse Home care advocates have been meeting with members of Congress this week to ask for their support for the Better Care Better Jobs Act and it is important that home care professionals who did not make the…

NAHC to Congress: Concerns About the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) has written to key members of Congress to express concerns about some portions of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act (H.R.4826),  would make a series of changes to the employment arrangements of domestic workers nationwide, as well as provide added supports to the Medicaid HCBS program. NAHC believes the legislation is well-intentioned, but is likely to negatively impact delivery of quality care in the home.

Care delivery in the home can at times be challenging to schedule and subject to the unpredictable occurrences of everyday life. Friends or family unexpectedly come for a visit, an appointment opportunity suddenly becomes available, an overlooked meeting is remembered last minute. The changes can be triggered by the patient, the patient’s family, not just the employer. These instances and others can lead to last minute schedule changes that a home care entity would be financially responsible to the worker for, yet without payment from the patient.

For years home care has faced labor shortages. These shortages have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and compounded by exceedingly high inflation, stiff competition for workers, and high gas prices – a unique challenge faced in home care given the need to commute between clients. Changes as proposed in this bill may further contribute to these shortages as costs of care will increase likely without increased reimbursement from payers such as the VA and Medicaid. Likewise, these added costs cannot easily be passed on to the patient who is often reliant on a fixed income.  These burdens will occur at a time when more workers will be needed to meet the demands of the baby boomer population moving towards old age.

Certain provisions in particular, such as the 30-day housing coverage and 2-week severance pay requirements in the event of termination of live-in domestic workers, in H.R. 4826 would come at a cost for home care providers that would likely result in loss of access to care or increased financial burden on their patients. Home care agencies already operate on narrow margins with a strong understanding of the balance between what a patient can afford and the wages that can be offered to caregivers.

In instances of government funded programs, such as VA and Medicaid, home care companies are not able to simply charge more for services to offset new administrative costs. In these cases, care access will be at risk as providers will likely be compensated less than the cost to provide care. In other words, these companies would need to find a subsidizing source of funds in order to provide care with the only potential source being higher charges to private pay patients. That would make home care an option only for the wealthy private pay patient.

Home Care companies take on great expense for the recruitment, onboarding, and training of workers to provide high quality care to their patients. They will at times include provisions in their contractual agreements with their patients to prevent their direct hiring of the caregiver. In the absence of these agreements, home care agencies can essentially be turned into recruitment and training companies for a consumer. Further, this can lead to a gray-market of care in the home lacking any licensure, oversight, or quality of care standards to avoid the requirement in the bill

As described above, we see several challenges that must be met for home care patients to not be adversely affected. However, we support the inclusion of a four percent increase to the Federal Medical Assistance Program (FMAP). NAHC has long advocated for more robust reimbursements for Medicaid services that are continually underfunded nationwide. We have supported the Better Care Better Jobs Act that would provide an estimated $400 billion infusion into the Medicaid HCBS, and provisions in the Build Back Better package is similar. These funds would be helpful in increasing wages for home care workers and ultimately helping to ensure Americans can access care in their home.

Home care workers enable their patients to maintain independence in their homes, dignity in being active members of their community, and the autonomy of living their lives as they choose. The nature of work in home care is both labor and emotionally intensive as they see their patients at their most vulnerable, building deep bonds that are commonly described as family-like. Workers tend to be women of color and immigrants, themselves vulnerable members of our society. Further supports are essential for their financial stability, though careful consideration and analytical approaches to policy are vital to meeting these without hampering patient access or undue financial burden.

NAHC will continue to advocate for access to care in the home and we will keep you updated on this important issue.

NAHC to Congress: Concerns About the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) has written to key members of Congress to express concerns about some portions of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act (H.R.4826),  would make a series of changes to the employment arrangements of domestic workers nationwide, as well as provide added supports to the Medicaid HCBS program.…

Feds Extends American Rescue Plan Spending Deadline for States to Expand Medicaid HCBS

  • States will have an additional year to use American Rescue Plan funds to strengthen the home care workforce and expand access to services

On Friday, June 3, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is notifying states that they now have an additional year — through March 31, 2025 — to use funding made available by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to enhance, expand, and strengthen home- and community-based services (HCBS) for people with Medicaid who need long-term services and supports.

As the primary funder of HCBS nationally, Medicaid plays a critical role in supporting states’ efforts to strengthen these services for their beneficiaries. Section 9817 of the American Rescue Plan provides states with a temporary 10 percentage point increase to the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for certain Medicaid expenditures for HCBS — an estimated $12.7 billion. As a result of the ARP increase in the federal matching rate on activities, states originally had a three-year period — from April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2024 — to use the available state funds, attributable to the ARP’s increased FMAP, on activities to enhance, expand, or strengthen HCBS in Medicaid. The extended timeframe, of an additional year, will help to facilitate high-quality, cost-effective, person-centered services for people with Medicaid. This will allow Medicaid beneficiaries to remain in the setting of their choice—whether it is their home or another setting—and remain a valued part of their communities.

This ARP funding allows states to identify and implement changes aimed at addressing existing HCBS workforce and structural issues. It will also help expand states’ capacity to provide critical services and meet the needs of family caregivers and people on HCBS waitlists. Moreover, states can use these funds to tailor HCBS activities based on the needs and priorities of their residents. For example, states can use the funds to provide additional support to address the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals who need long-term services and supports, who are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19, and who might otherwise be in more costly nursing homes and other institutions instead of their own homes. Some states are also using the funds to increase pay and benefits for direct service workers, which many states were unable to do before the ARP funding increase due to funding shortages and restrictions.

“Everyone deserves the dignity to live in their own homes and communities, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to protecting that right,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Thanks to extended funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, we are expanding home- and community-based services for millions of aging Americans and people with disabilities across the country. We are working hand-in-hand with states to ensure they have the time and support they need to strengthen their home care systems and workforce.”

“With this extension, we are addressing states’ concerns, giving states the time and resources to strengthen connections to care at home and in communities,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the risks of institutional and congregate settings for older Americans and people with disabilities, underscoring the urgent need to expand access to high-quality HCBS to improve outcomes for people who need long-term services and supports. HCBS allow millions of Medicaid beneficiaries to receive services in their own home or community rather than institutions or other isolated settings.

Critical safeguards are in place through the ARP legislation and CMS’ guidance to certify that these funds are used appropriately. Between now and the March 2025 deadline, CMS will continue to monitor states’ progress and compliance to ensure funding is used to strengthen HCBS under their Medicaid program.

Additional information on states’ spending plans — including a recently updated infographic summarizing planned activities and key investments — can be found at Medicaid.gov https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/home-community-based-services/guidance/strengthening-and-investing-home-and-community-based-services-for-medicaid-beneficiaries-american-rescue-plan-act-of-2021-section-9817-spending-plans-and-narratives/index.html.

To review the guidelines for the use of the ARP funds, please visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/smd21003.pdf.

To review the State Medicaid Director Letter extending the spending deadline, please visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/smd22002.pdf.

Feds Extend American Rescue Plan Spending Deadline for States to Expand Medicaid HCBS

  • States will have an additional year to use American Rescue Plan funds to strengthen the home care workforce and expand access to services

On Friday, June 3, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is notifying states that they now have an additional year — through March 31, 2025 — to use funding made available by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to enhance, expand, and strengthen home- and community-based services (HCBS) for people with Medicaid who need long-term services and supports.

“This is very good news,” said NAHC President William A. Dombi. “The ARPA funds are desperately need in Medicaid HCBS but using those founds properly has been a complex undertaking for the states. The added time to use the funds is very welcome.”

As the primary funder of HCBS nationally, Medicaid plays a critical role in supporting states’ efforts to strengthen these services for their beneficiaries. Section 9817 of the American Rescue Plan provides states with a temporary 10 percentage point increase to the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for certain Medicaid expenditures for HCBS — an estimated $12.7 billion. As a result of the ARP increase in the federal matching rate on activities, states originally had a three-year period — from April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2024 — to use the available state funds, attributable to the ARP’s increased FMAP, on activities to enhance, expand, or strengthen HCBS in Medicaid. The extended timeframe, of an additional year, will help to facilitate high-quality, cost-effective, person-centered services for people with Medicaid. This will allow Medicaid beneficiaries to remain in the setting of their choice—whether it is their home or another setting—and remain a valued part of their communities.

This ARP funding allows states to identify and implement changes aimed at addressing existing HCBS workforce and structural issues. It will also help expand states’ capacity to provide critical services and meet the needs of family caregivers and people on HCBS waitlists. Moreover, states can use these funds to tailor HCBS activities based on the needs and priorities of their residents. For example, states can use the funds to provide additional support to address the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals who need long-term services and supports, who are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19, and who might otherwise be in more costly nursing homes and other institutions instead of their own homes. Some states are also using the funds to increase pay and benefits for direct service workers, which many states were unable to do before the ARP funding increase due to funding shortages and restrictions.

“Everyone deserves the dignity to live in their own homes and communities, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to protecting that right,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Thanks to extended funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, we are expanding home- and community-based services for millions of aging Americans and people with disabilities across the country. We are working hand-in-hand with states to ensure they have the time and support they need to strengthen their home care systems and workforce.”

“With this extension, we are addressing states’ concerns, giving states the time and resources to strengthen connections to care at home and in communities,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the risks of institutional and congregate settings for older Americans and people with disabilities, underscoring the urgent need to expand access to high-quality HCBS to improve outcomes for people who need long-term services and supports. HCBS allow millions of Medicaid beneficiaries to receive services in their own home or community rather than institutions or other isolated settings.

Critical safeguards are in place through the ARP legislation and CMS’ guidance to certify that these funds are used appropriately. Between now and the March 2025 deadline, CMS will continue to monitor states’ progress and compliance to ensure funding is used to strengthen HCBS under their Medicaid program.

Additional information on states’ spending plans — including a recently updated infographic summarizing planned activities and key investments — can be found at Medicaid.gov https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/home-community-based-services/guidance/strengthening-and-investing-home-and-community-based-services-for-medicaid-beneficiaries-american-rescue-plan-act-of-2021-section-9817-spending-plans-and-narratives/index.html.

To review the guidelines for the use of the ARP funds, please visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/smd21003.pdf.

To review the State Medicaid Director Letter extending the spending deadline, please visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/smd22002.pdf.

Feds Extend American Rescue Plan Spending Deadline for States to Expand Medicaid HCBS

States will have an additional year to use American Rescue Plan funds to strengthen the home care workforce and expand access to services On Friday, June 3, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is notifying states that they now have an additional year…

Senate Debates Expansion of Medicaid HCBS

The Senate Special Committee on Aging met this week to debate the improvement and expansion of home-based services, particularly home-and-community based services, a consistent priority for committee chairman Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). Witnesses and Senators frequently cited. Casey’s Better Care Better Jobs (BCBJ) Act, strongly supported by NAHC, as it is the foundation for the HCBS provisions included in the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, the stalled health care, social service, and climate legislation that was a focus for much of 2021.

The most recent version of that legislation passed by the House of Representatives would provide $150 billion investment into Medicaid HCBS, permanency of the Money Follows the Person program, protections against spousal impoverishment for HCBS recipients, and several other policies intended to improved the provision of Medicaid HCBS.

Witnesses testimony focused on the current state of HCBS through explanation of statistics and data on the workforce, wages, patient need, and expected growth over the next eight to ten years. Witnesses highlighted the challenges that recipients are able to overcome with the assistance of home care, as well as the realities they face in the absence of care. They also highlighted challenges caregivers face in wages not competitive with other industries, feelings of isolation, and the grueling work. These accounts were paired with support for the Better Care Better Jobs Act.

While many of the witnesses lauded the HCBS funding included in the American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, they did add that it did not provide a permanent solution. Anne Tumlinson likened it to an “umbrella in a hurricane.”

At the hearing, the witness panel was comprised of Lisa Harootunian, Associate Director, Health Program, Bipartisan Policy Center, Anne Tumlinson, CEO, ATI Advisory, Brandon Kingsmore, Disability Advocate, Public Speaker, accompanied by Ms. Lynn Weidner, Home Care Worker, and Alene Shaheed, Home Care Recipient.

While the version of Build Back Better passed by the House is not expected to see further consideration in the Senate, work continues to be done on compiling a package of provisions consistent with the intent of BBB, though no specifics seem to be agreed to at this point.

NAHC will continue to urge Congress to make significant investments into the Medicaid HCBS program.

Senate Debates Expansion of Medicaid HCBS

The Senate Special Committee on Aging met this week to debate the improvement and expansion of home-based services, particularly home-and-community based services, a consistent priority for committee chairman Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). Witnesses and Senators frequently cited. Casey’s Better Care Better Jobs (BCBJ) Act, strongly supported by NAHC, as it is the foundation for the HCBS provisions included in the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, the stalled health care, social service, and climate legislation that was a focus for much of 2021.

The most recent version of that legislation passed by the House of Representatives would provide $150 billion investment into Medicaid HCBS, permanency of the Money Follows the Person program, protections against spousal impoverishment for HCBS recipients, and several other policies intended to improved the provision of Medicaid HCBS.

Witnesses testimony focused on the current state of HCBS through explanation of statistics and data on the workforce, wages, patient need, and expected growth over the next eight to ten years. Witnesses highlighted the challenges that recipients are able to overcome with the assistance of home care, as well as the realities they face in the absence of care. They also highlighted challenges caregivers face in wages not competitive with other industries, feelings of isolation, and the grueling work. These accounts were paired with support for the Better Care Better Jobs Act.

While many of the witnesses lauded the HCBS funding included in the American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, they did add that it did not provide a permanent solution. Anne Tumlinson likened it to an “umbrella in a hurricane.”

At the hearing, the witness panel was comprised of Lisa Harootunian, Associate Director, Health Program, Bipartisan Policy Center, Anne Tumlinson, CEO, ATI Advisory, Brandon Kingsmore, Disability Advocate, Public Speaker, accompanied by Ms. Lynn Weidner, Home Care Worker, and Alene Shaheed, Home Care Recipient.

While the version of Build Back Better passed by the House is not expected to see further consideration in the Senate, work continues to be done on compiling a package of provisions consistent with the intent of BBB, though no specifics seem to be agreed to at this point.

NAHC will continue to urge Congress to make significant investments into the Medicaid HCBS program.

Senate Debates Expansion of Medicaid HCBS

The Senate Special Committee on Aging met this week to debate the improvement and expansion of home-based services, particularly home-and-community based services, a consistent priority for committee chairman Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). Witnesses and Senators frequently cited. Casey’s Better Care Better Jobs (BCBJ) Act, strongly supported by NAHC, as it is the foundation for the HCBS…

NAHC to Congress: Big Investment in HCBS is Needed Now

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice has joined a large group of likeminded organizations in urging leaders in both houses of Congress and both parties to ensure that Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) remain part of any package that moves forward. A large investment is essential for building a sustainable HCBS infrastructure that can begin to address the magnitude of need in our communities, both increasing access to Medicaid HCBS and addressing the direct care workforce crisis–creating more direct care jobs to support people with disabilities and aging adults, and making those jobs better.

To address the long-standing inequities the pandemic exposed and exacerbated, this investment is critical to fortify a workforce that must continue to expand to meet a rapidly increasing level of need. The HCBS workforce provides vital services, and yet these workers– who are primarily women of color–have been devalued and underpaid for decades, leading to severe staff shortages that can result in crucial gaps in service availability, lengthy waiting lists, service line closures, and additional obstacles to achieving a high quality of life for workers and recipients alike.

Due in large part to a long history of inadequate funding at the federal level, the system itself is not serving everyone who needs HCBS, even though most people far prefer to remain in their homes as they age, and research has shown that quality of life is significantly improved when individuals are able to live in the community. Further, people with disabilities of all ages have a legal right to receive services and supports in the most integrated setting, regardless of the source of payment for services. Yet, 31 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, over 800,000 people with disabilities are currently on waiting lists for the Medicaid-funded services needed to make that possible, and many more are entering institutions against their wishes because they do not have qualified and trained direct care staff to support them in the setting of their choice. These waiting lists leave people with disabilities, aging adults and their families waiting years and even decades for services. The investments in the Build Back Better Agenda are crucial to reach this as yet unrealized goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

When older adults who want to age in place and people with disabilities who need support to work, live independently, and be a part of their communities are left waiting, the responsibility for care and support often falls on unpaid family caregivers, who also need financial assistance. The costs of this inadequate system fall disproportionately on people of color with limited income and wealth. The workforce and earnings losses related to unpaid family caregiving are significant and well-documented.

NAHC urges Congress to continue to include and prioritize the large investment in the infrastructure of Medicaid HCBS, and the workforce that provides them, as lawmakers negotiate any package moving forward.