An 18-month investigation revealed a serious shortage of home nurses. Now home health workers are finally getting help.
INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers in Indiana are taking action after a 13News investigation and documentary helped expose a statewide healthcare crisis.
The 18-month investigation highlighted a severe shortage of home nurses, leading thousands of Indiana families to not receive the home health care they need, often with devastating consequences.
Heads of state have now responded with millions of dollars to tackle the problem. The new money approved by the state legislature could literally save the lives of thousands of Hoosiers, and it comes after 13 investigations found Indiana had turned its back on the state’s most vulnerable residents.
Families are desperate for help
Across Indiana, children and adults who need home nursing care simply cannot get it. WTHR’s investigation and documentary Gasping for Care revealed in recent years that the state had failed to provide 6.1 million hours of pre-authorized home nursing care that it was willing to pay for.
In some cases, Hoosiers like Jim Aegerter and Cheyanne Hathaway have died in nursing homes after they and their families spent months unsuccessfully trying to find nurses to care for them in their homes. . In other cases, families faced economic ruin because they had to quit their jobs to provide the home health care the state was supposed to provide instead.
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“If we can’t work, how are we supposed to survive? Not only can’t I work, but I can’t support my other children, my household, my bills,” said Tyesha Wright, who waited months for a state-approved home nurse. for his daughter DÃ©sir. “It’s unfair because the only option they give us is to put our kids in a facility. And it’s not that we don’t want them, it’s that we need help! “
The investigation found that lawmakers and heads of state in Indiana had failed to increase reimbursement rates for home nursing care. The low rates have translated into a severe shortage of home nurses – many of whom have decided to move to work elsewhere.
âDue to the reimbursement rates, [home health care nurses] are able to go to McDonald’s or Hardees and make more money than they could on home care, âJennifer Heine, who helps run nursing agency Advantage, told 13News last year Home Care in Muncie.
âIt’s heartbreaking to see these families and to know that we just can’t help them because we don’t have enough staff,â echoed Leslie Deitchman, owner of Tendercare Home Health, one of the most major state nursing home agencies. She said the agency has lost more than 200 nurses to low salaries in recent years, resulting in a long waiting list of families in desperate need of home nursing care.
For years, the Indiana General Assembly, Governor, and Family and Social Services Administration have said they will tackle the problem of low wages for home nursing care. But they never did. Despite their promises to allocate more money in the 2021 state budget to increase reimbursement rates for home nurses, the budget proposal presented and considered by state lawmakers did not include a single dollar. to deal with the crisis.
That changed a few weeks ago when Congress and the White House approved the American rescue plan, sending an additional $ 3 billion in funding to Indiana.
Millions of dollars for home nurses, not nursing homes
With that extra money and a significantly improved forecast for the 2021 state budget, the Indiana General Assembly approved an additional $ 20 million so that Hoosiers in need of long-term care can stay home instead. than going to nursing homes.
“This is where the majority of people want to be anyway, so why not keep them there for as long as they can?” said Sarah Waddle, director of AARP Indiana and a longtime advocate for improving Hoosiers’ access to home health care services. AARP consistently ranks Indiana among the worst states in the nation for access to home health care in its annual report classification of long-term care.
Waddle says that after more than 6,200 Hoosiers have died in nursing homes from complications from COVID-19, it’s high time to spend more money on home health care.
“I think this is great news because people are paying attention to what is going on in our care facilities across the state and are looking for other options to try and keep loved ones at home,” a- she told 13News.
The Indiana Association for Home and Hospice Care has lobbied the state legislature for years, trying to convince lawmakers that home health care should receive a larger portion of Indiana’s long-term care budget. But state LTC funding has been heavily skewed in favor of nursing homes, which received a much higher share of LTC funding than nursing homes in other states. The governor and the FSSA recently announced their intention to “rebalance” this funding to ensure that more Hoosiers can receive long-term care in their own homes.
âWe’re very happy to see dedicated funding there,â said Evan Reinhardt, director of the Indiana Association for Home and Hospice Care. He said the additional $ 20 million – spread over the next two years and earmarked for increased reimbursement for Medicaid home health services – should make a big difference in improving the home nursing crisis in the world. ‘Indiana.
“We’re happy with $ 10 million per year, and we believe this will go a long way in solving some of the issues we have within our industry related to capacity and manpower,” said Reinhardt.
Details of the increased reimbursement rates are currently being worked out between FSSA, Medicaid and representatives of the state’s home health care industry. The increased rates are expected to be finalized before July 1, when the state’s new fiscal year comes into effect.
The state’s home health care reimbursement rates reflect the Medicaid money Indiana home care agencies receive from the state, and this rate helps determine how much nurses and home helpers are paid by their contracted agencies. The additional funding recently approved by state legislators is expected to result in an increase of $ 3 to $ 7 per hour for licensed practical nurses working in home care facilities, and an increase of 1 to $ 7 per hour. $ 3 an hour for home helpers.
See WTHR’s Gasping for Care documentary here.