Indiana lawmakers approve an extra $ 20 million for house nursing

An 18-month investigation revealed a serious shortage of home nurses. Now the home care workers are finally getting help.

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers take action after an investigation and documentary from 13News helped uncover a health crisis across the state.

The 18-month investigation revealed a severe shortage of home nurses that resulted in thousands of Indiana families not receiving the home health care they needed, often with devastating consequences.

Heads of state have now responded with millions of dollars to address the problem. The new money approved by the state legislature could literally be a lifesaver for thousands of Hoosiers, and it comes after 13 investigations found Indiana turned its back on the state’s weakest residents.

Families desperately waiting for help

Across Indiana, children and adults in need of home care just can’t get it. WTHR’s investigation and documentary Gaping for Care revealed in recent years that the state had failed to provide 6.1 million hours of pre-authorized home care that it was willing to pay for.

In some cases, Hoosiers like Jim Aegerter and Cheyanne Hathaway died in nursing homes after they and their families tried unsuccessfully for months to find nurses to look after them at home. In other cases, families faced economic ruin because they had to quit their jobs to get the home health care that the state was supposed to provide instead.

RELATED: 13 Researches: Indiana Families Denied Millions of Hours of Home Nursing

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“If we can’t work, how are we going to survive? Not only can I not work, I also can’t support my other children, my household, my bills,” said Tyesha Wright, who waited for a state-approved home nurse for months her daughter Desire. “It’s unfair because the only option they give us is to basically put our children in an institution. And it’s not that we don’t want them, but that we need help! “

The investigation found that Indiana lawmakers and heads of state have repeatedly failed to increase home nursing reimbursement rates. Low rates created a serious shortage of home nurses – many of whom decided to work elsewhere.

“Because of the reimbursement rates, [home health care nurses] can go to McDonald’s or Hardees and make more money than home care, “Jennifer Heine, who runs the Advantage Home Care agency in Muncie, told 13News last year.

“It’s heartbreaking to see these families and to know that we just can’t help them because we don’t have enough staff,” repeated Leslie Deitchman, owner of Tendercare Home Health, one of the largest home care agencies in the state. She said the agency had lost more than 200 nurses to low wages in recent years, creating a long waiting list of families in dire need of home care.

For years, the General Assembly, the Governor, and Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration said they would address the issue of low home nursing pay. But they never did. Despite their pledges to allocate more money in the 2021 state budget to raise reimbursement rates for home nurses, the budget proposal put in place and under consideration 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 US bailout and sent Indiana an additional $ 3 billion in funding.

Millions of dollars for home nurses, not nursing homes

With that extra money and a drastically improved 2021 state budget forecast, the Indiana General Assembly approved an additional $ 20 million to allow Hoosiers in need of long-term care to stay in their own homes instead of going to nursing homes.

“That’s where most people want to be anyway, so why not stay there as long as possible?” said Sarah Waddle, director of AARP Indiana and a long-time advocate of improving Hoosiers’ access to home health services. AARP consistently rates Indiana as one of the worst states for access to home health care in its annual long-term care rankings.

Waddle says after more than 6,200 Hoosiers died in nursing homes from complications related to COVID-19, it is long overdue to allocate more money to home nursing.

“I think it’s great news because people are paying attention to what is happening in our care facilities across the state and looking for other ways to try to keep loved ones at home,” she told 13News.

The Indiana Association for Home and Hospice Care has been campaigning for state lawmakers for years trying to convince lawmakers that home nursing should receive a larger portion of the Indiana long-term care budget. But the state’s LTC funding was heavily geared towards nursing homes, which received a far higher percentage of LTC funding than nursing homes in other states. The governor and the FSSA recently announced plans to “reallocate” funding to ensure more Hoosiers can receive long-term care within their own four walls.

“We’re excited to see committed funding there,” said Evan Reinhardt, director of the Indiana Association for Home and Hospice Care. He said the additional $ 20 million will be paid over the next two years and for a larger amount Medicaid Home Health Services Reimbursement – Should Make A Big Difference in Improving Indiana’s Home Health Care Crisis.

“We’re happy with $ 10 million a year and think it will go a long way toward solving some of the capacity and workforce problems we have in our industry,” said Reinhardt.

The details of the increased reimbursement rates are currently being worked out between the FSSA, Medicaid and representatives of the state’s home health industry. The increased rates are expected to be completed before July 1, when the state’s new budget goes into effect.

The state’s home nursing reimbursement rates reflect the Medicaid funds that Indiana home care agencies receive from the state, and this rate helps determine how much nurses and home nurses are paid by their contracting agencies. The additional funding recently approved by state lawmakers is expected to mean a $ 3 to $ 7 hourly pay increase for RNs and LPNs working in home health care, and a $ 1 to $ 3 hourly increase for home nurses .

Watch the documentary “Gaping for Care” by WTHR here.

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