HCA Testifies at Legislative Hearing on Health Budget; Join Us for March 9 Advocacy Day

Situation Report | March 1, 2021

HCA testified Thursday evening at a state legislative hearing on the Medicaid and health care budget.

The hearing began with remarks and questioning of state officials, including Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and Medicaid Director Donna Frescatore who were asked at length about the state’s decisions and oversight related to nursing homes in the pandemic as well as specific budget and program issues.

On home care and Medicaid program issues, in particular, legislators also raised questions about the proposed across-the-board budget cuts, the state’s methodology for determining Fiscal Intermediary (FI) awards in the recent request-for-offers process, why the Governor is proposing home care workforce recruitment-and-retention funds at a time of major workforce challenges like staff turnover, and the need for consideration of home care in the Governor’s proposed telehealth changes.

During recent weeks HCA has been raising all of these issues, and more, with legislators.

In testimony to the panel, HCA’s Director for Public Policy and Advocacy Alyssa Lovelace outlined HCA’s core priorities, urging the restoration of home and community-based care funds in the budget, financial and regulatory relief, workforce support, guardrails in the budget’s proposed telehealth changes, and a “home care first” orientation to make home care a more visible and supported option.

As a follow-up, the Assembly’s ranking member of the Health Committee, Kevin Byrne, asked Lovelace about recent Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) audits and their impact on home care providers. While recognizing the importance of compliance standards, Lovelace reiterated the need for state auditors to ease some procedures that have been especially disruptive or impractical in the midst of a pandemic.

What’s Next in the Process

Thursday’s hearing was the final one in a month-long schedule examining many areas of the proposed budget. The Senate and Assembly are expected next week to advance their one-house budget positions in response to the Governor’s proposed budget. These proposals establish a marker for each house’s position on key budget areas, setting the stage for further negotiations with the Governor continuing through to the April 1 budget deadline.

HCA’s State Advocacy Day

Please lend your voice to this process. Join us for HCA’s State Advocacy Day on March 9. This important event offers another opportunity to connect with lawmakers on our priorities and issues. Register here today.

Our March 9 Advocacy Day, on Zoom, is from 9 a.m. to noon and will feature key leaders from the Senate and Assembly addressing the HCA membership.

Legislators need to hear from you that the proposed budget’s cuts are unsustainable, especially on top of longstanding workforce challenges and a financial condition where 55 percent of home care agencies were already operating at a loss well before the $200 million estimated cost impact of COVID-19 on home care. Please join us today.