Home care stakeholders see public-private partnerships as a way to address labor shortages

Following a US Senate Request for Information (RFI) on solutions to the national health workforce crisis, the Partnership for Quality Home Health Care (PQHH) submitted a letter of comment on Saturday.

The letter details the challenges facing the home care sector and includes possible solutions. Potential solutions include recent state legislation that PQHH and others say could work at the national level.

The Senate, specifically US Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders, originally released the RFI on March 2.

Ultimately, the Senate hopes to come up with bipartisan decisions for inclusion in future legislation based on the information and insights it receives from vendors and stakeholders.

PQHH CEO Joanne Cunningham is encouraged by the Senate’s efforts to address the shortage of health care workers and the resulting home-based care.

“It feels different to me,” she told Home Health Care News. “There seems to be a renewed interest and effort to bipartisanly work together on creative solutions that use all the interest and all the good ideas to make something happen. I’m full of hope and I think this momentum is exciting.”

The PQHH letter outlines four key steps that must be taken by its members to overcome the labor crisis.

Those four things are: resources to raise wages; partnerships with educational institutions; tuition assistance and loan forgiveness for professional development in home healthcare; and resources to meet the needs of workers, such as travel and childcare costs.

“These are all long-standing policy ideas that have been talked about for years as ways to address the healthcare workforce shortage,” Cunningham said.

The letter also points out that state legislation, such as the Kentucky Health Worker Development Act, is a possible blueprint for a national solution.

The bill aims to address workforce problems by creating the Kentucky Health Workforce Investment Fund. The Foundation will create a public-private partnership that will focus on education and training initiatives for the workforce.

Earlier this month, the bill passed in the Kentucky House of Representatives by a vote of 92 to 1. Last week, the bill passed the Kentucky Senate by a vote of 35 to 1 and passed to Gov. Andy Beshear.

Cunningham says this special state legislation stands out because it brings together organizations from both the public and private sectors.

“This is a partnership that involves the private sector, healthcare organizations, insurers, others, as well as the government, to try to incentivize [all] work together on it,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons he’s so popular with the Kentucky government and also in Washington. I heard several members of the House of Representatives and Senate say recently that bipartisanship is how we should approach these complex political issues. Kentucky’s proposal certainly falls right into that category.”

The PQHH letter calls on Congress to encourage states to implement health workforce investment funds. To do this, Congress will need to increase each state’s federal Medicaid compliance (FMAP).

Overall, Cunningham welcomes the initiative of Senators Cassidy and Sanders when it comes to finding ways to end the labor shortage.

“The momentum behind this really shows the seriousness of not only the need, but the desire of senators on both sides of the aisle to do something about the health workforce shortage,” she said.

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