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.
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.
With a $39.4 billion FY17 state budget plan, the House Committee on Ways & Means kick-started the legislature’s budget deliberations.
As always, a significant portion of that total – $15.4 billion in proposed spending – is allocated for MassHealth programs. In their executive summary, House budget writers noted that MassHealth spending growth has been limited to 5%. They also mention that their budget plan “supports enhancements to the eligibility systems, caseload management and program integrity efforts, especially in the area of long term care, which ensures that our significant investments are being well spent, which is crucial to providing healthcare to some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents.”
That “support” could be part of the $8 million increase in the EOHHS administration line item (400-0300) as it does not show up in the line item specifically set aside for audits of MassHealth providers and utilization review (4000-0301). That item was actually set by the House at $413,000 less than FY16 spending.
Meanwhile, the House restored the Enhanced Home Care Services Program (ECOP) that Governor Charlie Baker consolidated into other items. With ECOP funded at $74.3 million, it comes in at $3.7 million above the FY16 spending level. That leaves some items noticeably lower than Governor Baker’s budget plan, but it also falls below what the state spent in FY16.
- Elder Home Care Purchased Services is $3.1 million below FY16 spending
- Elder Home Care Case Management and Administration is $2.6 million below FY16 spending
- Elder Nutrition (Meals on Wheels) is more than $746,000 below what was even set in the FY16 budget
Other newsworthy items from the House Ways & Means budget proposal include the following:
- $250 million assessment on hospitals that will support new MassHealth accountable care organization (ACO) incentive payments, which the Hospital Association supports with certain conditions.
- $5.7M for the Supportive Senior Housing Program, an item not included in budgets of previous years.
- $15 million above the Governor’s proposed spending for Nursing Home Supplemental Rates.
- $4.5 million above FY16 spending for Elder Protective Services.
The entire House Ways & Means budget can be found here. The Home Care Alliance will be working with State Reps to sponsor amendments creating a home care licensure commission, increasing MassHealth reimbursement for home health aides, and for EOHHS to conduct a full review of home health reimbursement. The Alliance will be fully partnering with other organizations to push a homemaker wage increase, expanding income eligibility for elder home care services, and other items.
More information on advocacy efforts will be released soon and the budget items will be a focus of HCA’s lobby day at the state house on April 28th. Contact James Fuccione at the Alliance for details.
Return to www.thinkhomecare.org