OHCA The Oregon Caregiver Spring Summer 2022

The Oregon Caregiver SPRING/SUMMER 2022 www.ohca.com 22 PUBLIC POLICY Every February of even-numbered years in Oregon (including 2022), the Legislature convenes for what is known in politics as a “short session.” These sessions, deemed as “short” because lawmakers have only 35 calendar days to complete their budget and policy work, are still a relatively new phenomenon approved by Oregon voters just over a decade ago. While they may be short on time, they are not short on substance. Despite having been originally conceived to take up procedural fixes and small changes to balance the budget, the Legislature tends to pass sweeping and significant new laws in short sessions. 2022 proved to be no different. Hundreds of new laws were passed, including big policy concepts like a farmworker overtime law and investing more than $1.4 billion into the state’s biennial budget for programs and services. For OHCA members, this session brought mostly good news. First and foremost, through OHCA’s advocacy the Oregon State Legislature made additional direct investments to advance quality care and address key needs in long term care. Despite immense challenges over the last two years, lawmakers’ actions prioritized long term care and should enable providers to continue to respond to several ongoing and overlapping crises affecting our sector. OHCA was successful in ensuring base Medicaid reimbursements rates did not drop on April 1 by extending the 5 percent “COVID Add-On” through June 30, 2023. Additionally, we secured a 10 percent cost-of-living-adjustment for home and community-based care providers effective July 1, 2022. This is a 5 percent increase over what was slated to be funded under current law. For nursing facilities, rates will rebase on July 1 as well. With these most recent adjustments, OHCA has delivered an approximate 30 percent increase to certain providers in Medicaid reimbursement since the pandemic began. This increase was critical to address significant cost increases borne on providers due to the pandemic and subsequential workforce shortage. This session, OHCA also addressed issues providers in all healthcare sectors were dealing with in regard to practices by some temporary staffing agencies. Price gouging practices and lack of trained staff from staffing agencies became an increasingly urgent concern from our members, and others, toward the end of last year. We heard those concerns and pursued a bill that would improve both quality standards and costs borne from the explosion of temporary staffing usage in Oregon’s long term care facilities. Unfortunately, there was not sufficient support among all legislators to pass the original version of the bill that included a rate-setting provision for what a temporary staffing agency may charge a provider. What will become law, however, are new licensure and quality regulations for temporary staffing agencies and a directive to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to work with OHCA and other stakeholders in the interim to explore policy recommendation around rate- setting. Ultimately, this bill allowed OHCA to raise public awareness of challenges with practices at some staffing agencies. Supporting the health care workforce was a theme that ran throughout session. OHCA supported several bills that would expand the pipeline of high-quality and well trained registered nurses and certified nursing assistants and provide long term care facilities more access to these critical care providers. But we know that the employment losses sustained by our sector over the last two years from burnout, loss to temporary agencies, and more will not be mended quickly. In fact, the Oregon Center for Nursing released a research brief in March 2022 that estimates it will take between four to six years for Oregon’s nursing workforce to recover to pre- pandemic levels. Addressing the workforce crisis in long term care will remain a focus of the OHCA government relations team for the foreseeable future. When the caregiving workforce craters, the effects reverberate. At its core, workforce in long term care are inherently issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion because most caregivers in Oregon are women and many are women of color. Our ability to adequately support caregivers, both licensed and unlicensed, and make investments in programs and services that allow them to professionally and educationally advance will play a key role in the sector’s ability overall to provide long term care aging Oregonians. The fact remains, however, that supporting workers and supporting providers go together. The state must continue to make adequate investments in Medicaid long term care services and supports and properly support providers who are serving our most vulnerable seniors.  Libby Batlan is the senior vice president of government relations at OHCA. Oregon Lawmakers Prioritize Long Term Care in 2022 Session By Libby Batlan, Oregon Health Care Association