Provider groups are cautiously optimistic that Congress this year will pass a newly introduced Better Care Better Jobs Act that would expand home- and community-based services.
“I have to believe this particular bill does have traction,” Home Care Association of America CEO Vicki Hoak told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse on Thursday, the day the bill was introduced. “We got so much attention the last time it was introduced. I’m hoping with a fresh look and more people advocating on behalf of this, it has a real possibility.”
Earlier this week, National Association for Home Care & Hospice President William Dombi expressed optimism at the Home Care 100 conference in Orlando that HCBS funding would become a priority in Washington this year.
In an email to McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse Thursday, Dombi said Better Care Better Jobs would have “the full support of NAHC and our citizen advocates.”
The trimmed-down version of Better Care Better Jobs Act would enhance Medicaid funding and potentially help an estimated 650,000 Americans get off of wait lists for in-home caregivers. A spokesperson from Casey’s office told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse on Thursday the Congressional Budget Office estimates its price tag at $300 million. When the bill was first introduced in 2021, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice estimated its worth at $400 billion and then revised the price tag to $150 billion.
The legislation would make permanent the 10% increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) to states; encourage states to develop innovative models that help states build their direct care workforce; provide additional funding to CMS to monitor and support state HCBS programs; provide funding to states to build out HCBS infrastructure; and make permanent the Money Follows the Person demonstration, which supports state efforts to rebalance long-term care support systems.
Thirty-seven other Democratic lawmakers have co-signed the legislation.
LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said Thursday the legislation could go a long way in helping to fill the estimated 7 million direct care jobs the U.S. needs by the end of the decade.
“This bill would mean better pay and benefits for care professionals, when almost half of home care worker households must currently depend on some form of public assistance,” Sloan said in a statement. “Increasing compensation is a critical component in recruiting and retaining these valuable workers. Equally important is investment in programs to help train and develop direct care workers and encourage career development.”
Casey and a bipartisan team of lawmakers first introduced the Better Care Better Jobs Act in June 2021. It became part of the Biden administration’s infrastructure deal called Build Back Better. Following the defection of a key supporter, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the legislation died. A new bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, emerged with parts of Build Back Better, and Congress ultimately passed it. However, it did not include $150 billion in HCBS funding.