House Approves Budget Plan with Little Support for Home Care

This week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives quickly buzzed through nearly 1,100 amendments to their FY2016 budget proposal and came out with roughly $38.1 billion spending plan.

The House included little from all corners of the advocacy spectrum and the same was true for home care. None of the Home Care Alliance’s priority items and many of those the organization supported were not advanced so HCA will be among many groups relying on the Senate to step up when their budget plan comes out early next month.

Among the items that were approved and supported by the HCA was an initiative to shape a comprehensive Mobile Integrated Health plan for the state, which named the Alliance to an advisory panel for that effort.

Also, $200,000 was approved for the Department of Higher Education’s “Nursing and Allied Health Workforce” account that has, in the past, spurred a home care nurse residency program. The Governor’s budget had zeroed out that line item.

Other notable items approved in the House budget include the following:

  • $8.8 million increase for MassHealth Nursing Home Supplemental Rates.
  • $500,000 for a pilot program in the “greater Quincy area” to implement a model of field triage of behavioral health patients under medical control by specially-trained emergency medical services providers and transport of appropriate, non-medically complex patients to a behavioral health site of care for most effective treatment rather than to an acute hospital emergency department.
  • $50,000 to establish Financial Abuse Specialist Teams (FAST) to improve the ability of elder protective services programs to investigate and respond to reports of financial exploitation.
  • $750,000 for the Meals on Wheels program, which brought that item to $7.1 million – still below the Governor’s proposed funding for that initiative.
  • A prospective, global payment pilot program established under MassHealth under which Medicaid contracts with risk-bearing provider organizations for the provision and coordination of health care services for their attributed members beginning not later than September 1, 2016. The pilot would require that such risk-bearing provider organizations shall be able to provide coordinated care through the provider’s network of primary care providers and that such providers shall have experience and demonstrated capabilities to provide behavioral health services including psychiatric and substance abuse beds. Under the proposed program, Medicaid shall reimburse such providers on a prospective monthly basis provided that these organizations obtained a risk certificate or a waiver from the Division of Insurance.

Stay tuned to learn more about HCA’s advocacy around the Senate budget process and how you can weigh in to support better rates for visiting nurses, home health aides, and other workers along with establishing a commission to study private pay home care oversight options.

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