Source: North Jersey.com
While the home health care industry as a whole decries the rate cuts, among those hit the hardest have been the non-profits that had long forgone the chase for patients who pay the bills themselves to focus on the Medicaid population and to create programs that served the community in other ways, like volunteer shopping programs and partnerships with other non-profits.
Visiting Homemaker Service of Warren County has scaled back on Medicaid services. Executive Director Peggy Suydam laments the decision to no longer take any new Medicaid cases but also said the agency needed to decrease the Medicaid percentage further if it wanted to stay afloat.
“It saddens me to see the state of home care at this point,” Suydam said. “It is an uphill battle just to provide care to those who need it.”
Doreen Wheeler, one of the Bergen County agency’s veteran employees, has been going to the Englewood home of Hazel James, 92, for about six years. In two-hour visits four days a week, Wheeler does a number of household chores and also helps James, who is weak from congestive heart failure and edema in her legs, move about the house and bathe.
“If you go to someone’s house just once or for only an hour, how much can you really get to know about them and what they need?” said Wheeler, who has also come to know James’ niece and regularly checks in with her. “With some of the people I go to, it gets to the point where you know them so well that when they hurt, you hurt.”
“Reimbursement levels are lower than they were 20 years ago,” said Chrissy Buteas, president of the Home Care & Hospice Association of New Jersey, which represents both for-profit and non-profit providers. “This, across the board, is a major concern for all of our providers, both for-profit and not-for-profit. I hear the same concerns from our small mom-and-pops to our largest providers.”
Buteas’ organization and other advocates are pushing for passage of legislation that would force managed care organizations to raise home-care reimbursement rates to $15.50 and provide for an inflationary increase in the rate every five years.
One of the sponsors, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, said she hoped the bill would get a hearing in May, when she and other supporters will try to make the case that the home health industry won’t be able to retain workers at the current reimbursement level.
“We’re looking at the poorest of the poor taking care of the poorest of the poor,” Huttle said.