“Historic” is how home care and aging services advocates described Friday’s passage of the Build Back Better initiative in the House of Representatives.
“Support for home and community-based services and affordable senior housing programs in the Build Back Better legislation can fundamentally transform how people grow old in this country,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of senior service nonprofit LeadingAge, said in a statement. “These are critically needed resources — especially investments in the workforce — that will immediately help alleviate current shortages and scarcity across aging services.”
The Biden administration’s nearly $2 trillion plan, which narrowly passed the House Friday morning, includes $150 billion for home-and-community-based services. Most of that money will likely help increase state Medicaid payments and provide a wage
boost to home care workers. The administration hopes the additional funding will partially help alleviate the care worker shortage and help more than 800,000 people get off of Medicaid wait lists for home care.
“Health care at home is widely recognized as high value, high quality, and highly preferred. From pediatric nursing care to home care aide services for those with multiple chronic illnesses as they age, this legislation will provide improved access to home care,” National Association for Home Care & Hospice President William Dombi told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse in a statement. ”We now look to the Senate to complete the work to protect our families and friends who need this essential care.”
Friday’s passage of Build Back Better comes after months of wrangling in the House between moderate and progressive Democrats and Republicans. The Biden administration originally laid out a $3.5 trillion social spending program that included $400 billion for HCBS, but funding was pared during House negotiations.
The Service Employees International Union, which represents 740,000 home care workers nationwide, lobbied aggressively for Build Back Better. Arizona SEIU member and home care worker Joan Steede urged the Senate Friday to quickly pass the bill.
“It’s long overdue that our care economy, and the women and women of color who make up the majority of our care workforce, are valued as essential,” Steede said in a statement.
Build Back Better could have a more difficult time passing in the U.S. Senate, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The bill is likely to be further tweaked in the Senate before returning to the House.