Assistant House GOP Leader Rep. Ellie Espling’s bill allows Maine seniors to stay in their homes as they grow older
Augusta – A bill seeking to increase the reimbursement rates for those who provide home-based, community based healthcare services for Maine’s elderly has gained unanimous approval from the Health and Human Services Committee.
The current Medicaid reimbursement rate has not been increased in 15 years and stands at $15.00 for personal support services. Meaning workers only average around $10.10 an hour. This makes it nearly impossible to keep qualified staff when the hourly rate is so low.
LD 886 “Resolve, Directing the Department of Health and Human Services To Increase Reimbursement Rates for Home-based and Community-based Services” was carried over from the first session as HHS Committee members were presented a study reviewing the rates for personal care and related services prior to the vote.
“Finding a way to make sure our loved ones can remain in their home as they age is essential to sustaining our long term care system. Home is where these folks want to be,” said Rep. Ellie Espling of New Gloucester. “Time and again, studies have shown that home based care yields better results for elder adults as they enter their golden years. It keeps them healthier, both physically and mentally. It also is far less expensive for the Maine taxpayer than paying for an institutional setting.”
The low reimbursement rates have led to some providers having to close their doors. Last July, MAS Home Care, who served roughly 1,000 Maine Medicaid recipients, stopped serving clients in Maine citing “MaineCare reimbursement rates for home care agencies” as the reason.
“The reimbursement rate for home based care services has not been increased in more than fifteen years,” continued Rep. Espling. “In that time, nearly every cost that agencies must pay in order to provide home based care has increased. This has resulted in a freeze, or near freeze, in wages. We are always making difficult choices about our state budget. But if one of our goals is to protect our elder adults, properly funding home based care should be a very easy decision for us to make.”
Other providers told HHS committee members how these low reimbursement rates make it difficult to keep qualified staff.
“The yearly turnover rate for our agency right now is 50%,” said Molly Baldwin, CEO at Home Care For Maine. “Our workers leave our agency for fulltime jobs with benefits almost daily. I can only imagine what the turnover rate will be once Walmart and McDonald s start to offer livable wages as we have all heard in the news.”
The bill will move on to the House for a vote.
This bill is just more proof of how far the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has come under the direction of Commissioner Mary Mayhew, from managing from crisis to crisis at DHHS to now looking at improving on and prioritizing services already offered. We must be cautious of proposals such as expanding Medicaid which will certainly put the department back into crisis management mode.