On Monday, April 4, the Georgia General Assembly debated a slew of bills late into the night on what is called Sine Die: the final day of the legislative session. At 12:15am, the legislature finally gaveled out, and as one of my favorite Georgia traditions, lawmakers threw pieces of torn up paper to celebrate the conclusion of yet another session complete.
GA lawmakers celebrate Sine Die, the tradition of throwing papers in the air at the closing of session.
My name is Cai Yoke and I am part of BAYADA Home Health Care’s Government Affairs team. This session marked my third year working under the Gold Dome in the state capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. As a part-time legislature in session for only three months out of the year, advocacy in Georgia moves at a frantic pace. Hundreds of organizations and advocacy groups like Hearts for Home Care vying to have their issues prioritized.
As the tattered paper filled the House & Senate chambers, home care advocates also had reason to celebrate. In a session dominated by debates over mental health reform and politically divisive pieces of legislation, I was struck by one encouraging fact: there is a growing bipartisan movement in support of improving access to home & community-based services. Our lawmakers are listening.
A Victory for Home Care
Among the flurry of bills passed on sine die was HB 911, which is the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. After three months of relentless advocacy from advocates, families, and providers across the state, lawmakers included language in the budget that ensures the Georgia Pediatric Program (GAPP), which serves more than 1,700 medically fragile children, received a permanent 10% Medicaid reimbursement rate increase.
This increase comes at a critical time as providers across the state continue to struggle to recruit nurses to meet the increasing demand for quality in-home nursing services. It’s an important first step in a series of steps that need to be taken to ensure GAPP is adequately funded.
How Successful Advocacy Works
In legislative advocacy work, we often say “the squeaky wheels get the grease.” In other words, if lawmakers aren’t hearing from their constituents, they aren’t going to prioritize that issue. Throughout session, I joined a growing number of family advocates, providers, and lobbyists walking the halls, speaking to legislators, and testifying in front of critical committees. Most importantly, we all shared stories of their constituents who are struggling to access care.
Cai Yoke, BAYADA Government Affairs Manager, testifies before the House Health Appropriations Subcommittee about the urgency of funding the Georgia Pediatric Program (GAPP).
However, when GAPP was excluded from the House Budget, we did not give up. The next day, our advocacy team returned to the Capitol in force. We raised the alarm to Senate leaders about the urgency of investing in GAPP now. Families and clients throughout the state made phone calls and wrote letters to ensure Senate Appropriation leadership understood the devastating impact of not adequately funding this program.
This advocacy push worked. Senator Kay Kirkpatrick, a prominent legislator and leader for our cause, wrote a letter of support on our behalf. Days later, the Senate released their budget, containing language that ensured a permanent 10% rate increase for GAPP.
Advocacy Never Stops!
Senator Kay Kirkpatrick met with BAYADA advocacy professionals: Cai Yoke, Lee Dobson, & Darren Tolliver.
With the budget passed by both chambers and awaiting Governor Kemp’s signature, I am so proud to be part of this successful advocacy outcome.
In this kind of work, momentum is everything. I am honored to be working alongside our Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors, – like Darren Tolliver, who deserves special kudos for his advocacy – families, and our coalition providers to continue to build on the momentum we have. My hope is that come the start of a new session in January, every Georgia lawmakers will know our issues and take action to make Georgia a better state for our most vulnerable populations.
Authored by: Cai Yoke, Manager at BAYADA Government Affairs
Despite the fact that many people in government and regulatory positions agree that home health care is a cost-effective, patient-preferred solution, it continues to be prioritized below institutional care. Not investing in home care will decrease the supply of qualified workers, increase turnover, and compromise the quality of home care services. At Hearts for Home Care, we help those that care about home care by enabling YOU to get involved at the capacity in which you’re able to do so.
Email us at [email protected] or visit our website in order to learn more about the home care advocacy community and find opportunities to get involved.