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Florida Homecare

Advocates urge additional funding for Florida homecare workers

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Many healthcare advocates tout the benefits of home-based care rather than sending loved ones to nursing homes or other facilities. For Medicaid recipients in Florida, however, home-based care can be difficult to find because of long waiting lists and high turnover among underpaid homecare workers. There's some hope that lawmakers in Congress could agree - and pass a new, "slimmed down" version of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan, with $150 billion for Home and Community-based Services.

Miriam Haramatz, founder and advocacy director for the Florida Health Justice Project, said the funding needs are critical because too many people are fending for themselves.

"One of our clients had to go days without services," she said. "She is in bed after a stroke; she needs aides to come and operate a Hoyer lift. She was going virtually every weekend without any aid."

Harmatz said caregivers often are paid less than $11 an hour to provide intense, round-the-clock care while juggling other duties. She said she sees an infusion of federal funding as a way to help states take people off waitlists, increase worker pay and provide other critical services.

Amber Christ, director of Health Policy and Advocacy for the group Justice in Aging, said chronic underfunding is making it difficult for Floridians to get the proper care they need where they want to receive it - at home with loved ones.

"From an older adult perspective," she said, "this lack of investment in-home and community-based services in effect pushes older adults into nursing facilities, unnecessarily."

Legislators in Tallahassee have put forward a bill to establish a Medicaid "buy-in" program for people between ages 16 and 64 who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. They've also proposed a bill requiring the state's Social Services Estimating Conference to develop 'iBudget' enrollment and cost projections, so state economists can better track the number of folks on waitlists, which averages around 22,000.

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