Home health providers are now just weeks away from finding out what their fee-for-service reimbursement fate will be for CY2024.
Ahead of that, home health leaders are still speaking out about the importance of advocacy – and what that advocacy has done for them and their peers over the years.
“There are so many different forms of advocacy, and considering there are tens of thousands of us providing care at home, that’s a powerful, unified voice,” Robert Love, executive director of Butte Home Health and Hospice, said at the National Association for Home Care & Hospice’s (NAHC) annual conference Monday. “Those tens of thousands of us represent millions of team members. If we can engage them, tap into their voice, have them share with their networks, we’re going to go a lot further with our message.”
The Chico, California-based Butte Home Health and Hospice has been around for nearly 40 years. Six years ago, the company made a decision to revamp its whole agency and rebuild with clinician experience top of mind.
As Love explained, internal advocacy became a focal point in the company’s mission.
Part of that mission involved a “Stop the Home Health Cuts Campaign,” where clinicians and other team members were active participants in contacting local lawmakers about the dangers of cutting home health reimbursement rates.
“You’ve got to be transparent with your staff,” Love said. “When costs are going up, when pay is going up and when these cuts are coming, it’s really beneficial to have an open dialogue with your staff.”
A focused legislative advocacy plan has shown real dividends already. Clinicians sent letters to lawmakers and shared messages with members of Congress that eventually turned into a meeting that Love believes had a real impact.
“Of course, we talked about margins and what a 4% cut means to an agency that has 4% leftover at the end of the year,” Love said. “By the end of that meeting, our local legislators were about as appalled about the cuts as our team was. It was a really, really successful meeting, but it never would have happened if we hadn’t harnessed the voice of our team. In the five years since we’ve restructured, we’ve learned that a happy, motivated and engaged team can do great things together for all sorts of causes.”
Advocacy comes in many shapes and sizes.
For Jeff Salter, the CEO of the home care provider Caring Senior Service, it was a cross-country bicycle tour.
In 2020, Salter biked over 9,000 miles, visiting 50 locations in 20 states to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary.
The campaign started out as a way to celebrate the company but morphed into a home care advocacy tour. It raised awareness about senior care in the home and technological advancements being made in senior care and also helped raise money to help pay for grab bars in bathrooms for older adults all over the country.
Along the way, Caring Senior Service hosted local events that made the movement come full circle.
“We invited community leaders, senior care advocates, caregivers and the seniors themselves. We really listened to what they had to say and what their challenges were,” Salter said. “Our goal was to help them to inspire a change in their local community, because all of this is local. People care about their families, they care about their neighbors, they care about their communities and they want to see a difference. We discovered that our movement was not just about sharing a message, but about creating a platform for people.”
Whether those challenges or opportunities involved housing, funding or technology, Salter realized the trip became one centered on advocacy at the local level.
There was also a neatly tied metaphor in the trip itself. One Salter realized along the way.
“When you take a trip like this, there are going to be setbacks,” he said. “When you take on advocacy, there’s going to be setbacks. But it does require that you have dedication and perseverance and that you’re actually willing to step out outside of your comfort zone. There were many days I felt like I wanted to quit and I didn’t think anybody really cared if I just stopped and went home. But the reality was that many lives would have been impacted had I not completed the trip.”