Fighting for Home Care in Georgia, and Across the Nation

October 15, 2021
hobbies and activities for seniors

by Anish Patel, President & CEO, Azalea Home Care

In late August, I joined over 120 fellow providers of the Home Care Association of America Georgia Chapter, to discuss, among other topics, the current workforce shortage of home care professionals, not only in Georgia–but nationwide.

Though in July, Georgia saw unprecedented employment and average salary increase that outpaced national averages, this growth is not at all reflected in the home care sector. One reason for this: most home care service rates are based on reimbursement rates from state waiver programs, which many providers lean on to assist the ever-growing demand from elder and disabled communities. During this pandemic many nurses have turned in their white coats and scrubs for other opportunities elsewhere, and can we blame them? With long hours, the unknown possibility of contracting communicable diseases, and lower pay we have been at a tipping point now more than ever.  In an idealistic world, substantial home care would be covered by the major health insurance companies, with an emphasis on preventative treatment.    

Home care workers are critical to the health and daily livelihood of Americans across this country. Although home health workers are one of the fastest-growing segments of the labor market, they typically earn less than $30,000 per year. Meanwhile, the cost of service through homecare v. a nursing home is astronomically lower, on average. Medicaid, the largest payer of long-term care services, pays an average of $90,000 per person for nursing home services—almost three times as much as it pays annually for home care services. 

 In a small victory for our state, on June 10, the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) Board approved the Medicaid 10% rate increases for the Elderly & Disabled Waiver Programs (CCSP & SOURCE). Your HCAOA Georgia Chapter played an important role in getting this rate increase through the legislature and subsequent approval by the Governor. Thanks to our chapter lobbyist, Rusty Paul, for his advocacy efforts, and for creating the opportunities for us to present our story to key legislators.

There is still work to be done, however. In the short-term, one way we’re hoping to alleviate any strain on home care workers and our clients is by asking everyone to urge their Georgia lawmakers to support the Credit for Caring Act (H.R. 3321/S. 1670), which provides eligible family caregivers a tax credit of $5,000 for out-of-pocket expenses related to caring for a loved one at home. 

>> You can click here to share a message to advocate for Georgia home care workers and their clients, with one click.<<

Home care is a critical need across the nation.

However helpful, this Georgia-based credit and waiver increase still would only be a very small drop in the bucket toward ensuring that home care workers have wages sufficient to support themselves and their families, as this is a national issue.

Nationally, one of the programs President Biden has been championing as a part of his most recent bill is the expansion of home and community-based care for the elderly and disabled. Last month, Biden called for a nearly $400 billion investment into the home care sector, however the bill has yet to fully be funded by Congress.

The proposed funding increase into Medicaid’s Home and Community Based Services program would reduce the wait for assistance to elderly and disabled patients who would rather stay in their homes rather than go into more costly assisted living facilities or other institutions, and raise pay for home health care’s majority BIPOC and female workforce. Stil, experts do not expect the proposal to achieve full funding. 

This is a pivotal moment for our country, in the wake of a global pandemic and over 135,000 COVID-related nursing home deaths, and rising demand for eldercare, it is time for us to change the way we think about how we care for older adults, and the disabled. It will take all of us raising our voices to make sure our tax dollars go toward this effort.

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