A number of lawmakers, including Senator Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan), introduced a bill on Thursday that would expand Medicaid’s coverage of home and community services.
The HCBS Access Act was introduced by Casey as a supplement to the Better Care for Better Jobs Act, which was originally promulgated in 2021 and re-enacted in January.
“The second bill establishes a steady stream of funding to maintain the sustainability of infrastructure and ensure that we can continue to pay primary care professionals at a rate that provides skilled and reliable services to a skilled, reliable workforce in the future,” Casey said. during hearings on the announcement of the bill.
The bill also provides for the training and support of family members or informal caregivers.
The legislation will provide grant funding to states, allowing them to expand their ability to provide home care services.
So far, the bill has already received strong support from the Medicaid Home Care Partnership (PMHC).
“PMHC is encouraged by the efforts of Senator Casey and Representative Dingell to continue to focus on the need to consider home care as a long-term, viable alternative to institutional care with sufficient funding to address staffing challenges,” PMHC spokesperson. This was announced by a spokesman for Home Health Care News in an email. “Ultimately, we look forward to seeing bipartisan engagement to bring this to life so we can maintain and improve critical long-term support and services for the people we serve.”
LeadingAge has also been outspoken in its support for legislation, efforts to improve the caregiver workforce, and efforts to increase access to home care.
“Significant investment in direct care workforce, such as the HCBS Access Act, is exactly what is needed to begin addressing the current workforce crisis in senior services,” said Kathy Smith Sloan, President and CEO director of LeadingAge, in a press statement. . “Instead of targeting one or two areas, this law rightly aims to spread labor resources widely. Public and non-profit apprenticeship and training programs will be eligible for funding, along with retention initiatives to help current aging service employees develop their experience while on the job.”
For long-term care services, Medicaid pays for nursing home care and other inpatient care for eligible individuals.
However, Medicaid does not pay for home and community services unless a waiver has been granted.
“This bill will equalize both options and give families an equal choice between home, community or institutional care,” Casey and his coauthors wrote in the newsletter.
Other Legislative Wins in Home Care
In other legislative news, the Kentucky Health Workforce Development Act, which was originally introduced in February, passed in the Kentucky House of Representatives by a vote of 92 to 1.
If the bill passes through the Senate, it will address the workforce problem by creating the Kentucky Healthcare Workforce Investment Fund. The Foundation will create a public-private partnership that will focus education and training initiatives on the workforce.
“The unique aspect here is that it allows private organizations to contribute and receive appropriate funds from the state,” Evan Reinhardt, executive director of the Kentucky Home Care Association, told HHCN last month. “I think leverage takes it to a whole new level. This is one of the biggest opportunities here, especially for home health.”