LeadingAge Florida, Florida’s only association representing the entire continuum of care for older adults, announced its 2021 legislative priorities for senior living and long term care today. Top priorities include protecting the FY 2020-2021 Medicaid funding increase, enacting reasonable COVID-19 liability protections for long term care, addressing the long term care workforce shortage through permanent implementation of the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) Program, and preventing the sweep of any funds allocated to affordable housing programs.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, operating costs for long term care providers increased substantially in the last year. Those increases have included the significantly inflated costs of personal protective equipment, enhanced infection prevention procedures and controls, and substantially increased staffing costs, among others.
As a result, LeadingAge Florida will work to safeguard the increased Medicaid funding for nursing homes that passed during the 2020 Legislative Session and that was proposed in the Governor’s budget last month. This funding is essential to ensuring that Florida’s seniors continue to have access to the highest quality of care.
The highly contagious, deadly coronavirus has been particularly harmful for older adults and those who serve them across the continuum of senior care. These frontline health care workers have fought the virus for months with courage and resolve. And despite the risks, the dedicated staff working in long-term care communities have continued to provide compassionate care and services, prioritizing the health and wellbeing of residents above their own wellbeing.
However, their tireless work to provide high quality care has been challenged by a lack of protective equipment, as well as ever-changing protocols and conflicting recommendations from federal, state and local agencies. These factors have hampered COVID-19 efforts even in the highest quality long term care facilities in the state.
In light of these unprecedented circumstances, LeadingAge Florida is advocating for reasonable, limited liability protections to allow caregivers to continue providing lifesaving care, in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, without fear of frivolous lawsuits.
“The COVID-19 public health emergency has truly been unprecedented,” said Steve Bahmer, President and CEO of LeadingAge Florida. “For months, we learned something new about the virus nearly every day. The day-to-day delivery of care was extremely challenging as federal and state guidelines changed multiple times in a matter of days. In spite of these unprecedented challenges, our members continued to work around the clock to provide the highest quality care while ensuring the physical, mental, and spiritual health of their residents and staff.”
The workforce shortage in long term care is an ongoing challenge that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. One initiative designed to help alleviate workforce pressures during the pandemic, the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program, was approved by the Agency for Health Care Administration in March 2020.
Over the past year this program has become a valuable way to extend and support other direct caregivers in long term care. LeadingAge Florida supports legislation making this program permanent, rather than ending when the COVID-19 State of Emergency expires.
Last month Governor Ron DeSantis also unveiled his 2021-22 budget proposal, which provides $423.3 million for affordable housing programs from the State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds. This year LeadingAge Florida will again support full funding of the affordable housing programs and oppose moving any funds anticipated for low-income housing to other state priorities.
For more than 57 years, LeadingAge Florida has been the state’s leading advocate for high-quality senior living, aging services and care. We are the only statewide association representing the full continuum of care for seniors. The Association provides up-to-date regulatory information, a wide variety of educational opportunities, representation before the Legislature and government agencies, group purchasing services, and opportunities for networking with peers to help member communities best serve the needs of Florida’s senior population.