Hopes for sweeping support to the care economy got a boost early Wednesday when the Senate passed a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that would potentially boost the pay of homecare workers, provide billions of dollars in home-and-community-based services (HCBS) and expand Medicare.
“We are on the cusp of transforming our caregiver system at a scale we haven’t seen since the New Deal and meeting the needs of today’s working families across the lifespan,” Ai-jen Poo, executive director of Caring Across Generations and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said.
The Home Care Association of America (HCAOA) applauded the Senate and said it would keep pushing Congress to increase Medicaid reimbursement for home care and private duty nursing, as well as provide additional funding for home care worker training.
“While the pandemic has and continues to be devastating, it has highlighted the tremendous value home care aides bring not only to older American, but to government as well,” HCAOA Executive Director Vicki Hoak told McKnight’s Home Care Daily in a statement. “Home care is a win-win for home care clients and government: a win for older clients who prefer to receive care in their own homes and it’s a win for government because home care is cheaper than facility care.”
The vote came one day after the Senate overwhelmingly passed President Joesph Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure package. While the budget blueprint passed the Senate 50 to 49 along party lines, some moderate Senate Democrats expressed concerns about its hefty price tag.
“I firmly believe that continuing to spend at irresponsible levels puts at risk our nation’s ability to respond to the unforeseen crisis our country could face,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told The New York Times.
Even before Wednesday’s vote, some in the home care industry had ratcheted back expectations of getting everything they wanted in the package as it makes its way through Congress. When President Biden announced his American Jobs Plan in March, he asked Congress for $400 billion for HCBS. But National Association for Home Care and Hospice President William Dombi recently told McKnight’s Home Care Daily money for HCBS included in the Better Care Better Better Jobs Act has been scaled back to $150 billion.
“So, that is a paring down of the so-called ask to the White House,” Dombi explained. “But you can’t look at $150 billion infused into home care and not smile. It is one of the first investments of its kind in home care in many, many years and it sets the stage for a commitment to bring healthcare home to the greatest degree possible.”
The legislation moves to the House of Representatives which is expected to begin debate on it in a few weeks. The White House announced it will hold a roundtable discussion with care providers on funding for HCBS Thursday on New York’s Staten Island.