Three Steps Forward, One Back—NC Lawmakers make Strides Towards Helping the State’s Most Vulnerable

Earlier this month three separate pieces of legislation moved forward to support some of North Carolina’s most vulnerable citizens, and one may have put them in jeopardy.  The first three provisions, yet to be passed, are still being considered. First, lawmakers are closing the coverage gap with the design of a health care program that addresses the needs of citizens who are ineligible for Medicaid due to their income levels but who are otherwise unable to afford health insurance. HB 655 will ensure hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians have access to health care.

Second, lawmakers set aside $2.7 million for the Division on Aging to help address the 11,000 persons on waiting lists for services across the state. The most heavily funded services are in-home aide services, home delivered meals, and transportation assistance. This is a great first step to address the service gaps within our Block Grant programs and supporting individuals to stay home.

Lastly, the state added 1,000 new waiver slots for individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). These slots will help address the more than 11,000 persons on waitlists across the state. The provision also calls for a study on rates and wages of direct support personnel. GAO is encouraged with these provisions and will look for opportunities to provide input on the wage study. Our top priority is to ensure enough reimbursement and program funds to address staffing shortages resulting from low wages so BAYADA can take care of more people at home.

The “oh no” provision, if passed, that will jeopardize our Medicare offices and clients comes in the form of changes to Certificate of Need (CON) laws (HB126).  Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Neal Luther took a stand by sending a personalized message to Senate Republicans which read, “As an occupational therapist working with Medicare seniors, my priority is to ensure seniors get the care they need in the most cost-effective setting – home. HB126 causes me great concerns because it allows continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) to go around the CONs rules. As a therapy professional I follow the rules, CCRCs should be expected to follow them too.”  While it is likely that this bill will pass the Republican-led Senate, GAO will continue to garner support to solidify the House’s opposition on changes to CON laws that will help us keep Medicare seniors safe at home. 

As of publication, 66% of Medicare directors have taken action.  Thank you for being an advocate for our staff and clients. Your advocacy voice is important.