Rep. Gentile Receives Advocate of the Year Award From Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts

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SUDBURY – The Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, a non-profit trade association of home care agencies with more than 180 members from across the Commonwealth, presented State Representative Carmine Gentile (D-Sudbury) with an award last week.

The title of “2021 Advocate of the Year” was conferred on Representative Gentile as part of the Alliance’s Annual Star Awards for his leadership in efforts to reform the reimbursement rate process for home care agencies, improve pay for home care workers, and better the quality of care for clients relying on services in the state.

In introducing Representative Gentile, Jake Krilovich, the Alliance’s Director of Legislative & Public Affairs said, “some legislators just ‘get it’. They get that these services are essential to keeping people safe at home. They get that home care providers would do anything, and are doing everything, to pay these workers as much as possible for this difficult work. And they get that even if the State doesn’t make these investments today, we’ll pay for it later and then some down the line. Representative Carmine Gentile is a legislator who gets it.”

The Home Care Alliance, the Home Care Aide Council and Mass Home Care work together in a legislative coalition, named “Enough Pay to Stay,” aimed at improving reimbursement rates for home care and home health aide services. Since the “Enough Pay to Stay” Coalition approached Representative Gentile to be their legislative champion, the legislature has appropriated over $70 million dollars in rate add-ons for homemaker and home health aide services.

“It is a great honor to be nominated and selected for this award,” said Representative Gentile in his speech at the Annual Star Awards. “In every community in our state, home care workers are providing critical care for an enormous population including people with disabilities, the elderly, and medically complex individuals just to name a few. It worries me that so many community-based non-profits have substantial job vacancies because they cannot recruit and retain enough staff. These vacancies are harming the quality of care for our most vulnerable residents.”

At the core of the staffing problem is the rate setting process for home health and home care services. Rates set by Mass Health and EOHHS determine the capacity for providers to offer fair and adequate wages and benefits to their workforce. In theory, the process works effectively because providers offer their comments and concerns about proposed rates through testimony at state hearings. In practice, however, the rules and procedures of the rate setting process fail to lead to adequate rates. For example, until 2020, the home health aide rate had not been adjusted 13 years despite rapidly increasing costs and higher demand for services.

Representative Gentile is the primary sponsor for H.737 – An Act clarifying rate setting processes for home health and home care services. This legislation seeks to improve the rate setting process by increasing the transparency, consistency and accuracy of the methodology used to determine rates.

By improving the transparency of the rate setting process, stakeholders such as providers, staff, consumers, and the legislature can better understand the methodology used to calculate rates. These stakeholders can also advocate more effectively for better rates, which would improve wages and benefits for low-income workers, improve quality of services for vulnerable populations, and reduce financial strain on provider agencies.

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