Lawmakers OK bill to provide new home-based care option
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski to create a new long-term care option for seniors and people with disabilities.
The legislation (2018-S 2734Baa, 2018-H 7803Aaa), which will now go to the governor, would establish in Rhode Island the “independent provider” model of at-home care, which allows consumers to hire and manage caregivers of their choice while the state takes on certain responsibilities, such as setting caregivers’ wages, qualification standards and hours.
By increasing both availability and quality of at-home care options, the bill’s ultimate goal is to move Rhode Island toward greater use of care in the community rather than in nursing facilities, since at-home care is both more comfortable and satisfying for consumers and less expensive than nursing facilities.
“Presently, Rhode Island ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of investment in home care. Ninety percent of older Americans prefer home care. Not only is it more comfortable for seniors, it’s more cost-effective, as we’ve seen in states like Massachusetts. High-quality home care is what people want, and it saves money. I’m proud to support this effort to help make excellent home care available to more Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).
Said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), “There is little question that people prefer to stay in their homes as long as possible. Particularly now, as the over-65 population in our state is rapidly expanding, Rhode Island must shift more of our long-term care resources toward supporting home care. Our legislation will help provide more options for home-based services, enhance access to them and establish standards that assure high-quality care.”
Currently around 77 percent of Medicaid funding for long-term services and supports goes to nursing facility care rather than community-based care. Those who use community-based care generally go through agencies or find, hire and manage a caregiver on their own. This bill would create a third option.
Under the independent provider model, which has been in place in Massachusetts since 2008, consumers would still be the direct employer who determines when to hire or fire an employee, but the state would take on responsibilities for maintaining a registry of qualified caregivers, and would set parameters such as rates, qualifications and hours.
While the legislation stipulates that they are not employees of the state, it would give home care workers the right to collectively bargain with the state over those parameters. Allowing them to organize would ensure that this otherwise dispersed workforce has a unified voice and a seat at the table to tackle the issues facing Rhode Island’s long term services and supports system, said Senator Goodwin.
Consumers in states with independent provider models report higher levels of client satisfaction and autonomy, received more stable worker matches, improved medical outcomes, and reduced unmet need with agencies delivering fewer hours of care relative to the needs of the consumer.
The bill was backed by the Rhode Island Campaign for Home Care Independence and Choice, a coalition that includes the Senior Agenda Coalition, RI Working Families Party, RI Organizing Project, District 1199 SEIU New England, RI AFL-CIO, Economic Progress Institute and the RI Chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903