The Oregon Caregiver FALL/WINTER 2020 www.ohca.com 16 PUBLIC POLICY T he COVID-19 global pandemic has rippled throughout Oregon causing disruptions in every facet of daily life. Most tragically, this virus has taken the lives of more than one thousand Oregonians. As we have battled the pandemic, Oregonians in communities statewide have experienced devastating wildfires and are weathering a period of political polarization, social unrest, and economic challenges. Nobody can say for sure what next year will bring, but we can all agree that we hope it is better than 2020. The long term care sector has been on the front lines of this pandemic since day one. Providers and caregivers have had to rapidly shift delivery of care to residents to keep up with immense changes in the federal and state regulatory landscape. While these changes have presented operational, clinical, and fiscal challenges, they have been critical to the safety of residents and staff. It is a testament to the dedication of caregivers and medical staff who have led with their values, employing innovative strategies to give residents care and social connection that is compassion- ate, person-centered, and safe. Support for the Frontlines We have been particularly proud at OHCA to serve our members during this chal- lenging time. The OHCA government relations team set out to support our members in any manner possible. A few key initiatives included protecting Medicaid rate increases in the state budget, full rebasing of nursing facility rates, and establishing a five percent cost of living adjustment for community-based care providers. We achieved all this at a time when the state was making budget cuts. Additionally, we secured a ten percent temporary Medicaid rate increase in the spring. We know these funds have been critical in helping providers keep up with the significant costs borne from the pandemic, including those related to acquiring massive amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE), hiring additional staff and providing enhanced compensation for caregivers, investing in technology to facilitate virtual visits, conducting testing (including in addition to the state required testing), and adding infection prevention and response measures. To assist with the cost of state and federal testing mandates, we successfully advo- cated for millions of dollars in CARES Act funds to be directed by the state to support providers. Finally, at the height of the PPE shortage, we were heartened that Governor Brown deployed the National Guard to deliver a supply of PPE to long term care facilities, senior housing communities, and in-home care agencies in the state. Our priorities between now through early 2021 are threefold: • Secure a six-month, five percent reimbursement rate increase starting January 1, 2021; • Replenish the state fund to reimburse long term care providers for the cost of workforce COVID-19 testing; and • Assist the state in coordinating the roll out of the vaccines to long term care providers. A Unique National Election The state and nation recently concluded an election cycle that was historic by several measures, including record-high voter participation and campaigns that were waged virtually. After flipping several key states that went to President Trump four years ago, former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris are headed to the White House next year. Despite the electoral strength of the Biden-Harris ticket, by comparison, Democrats underperformed in their bid for control of Congress. They now hold a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives following big gains in the 2018 midterms. While the fate of the U.S. Senate remains unknown until the conclusion of two Senate races in Georgia on January 5, it is likely that Republicans will hold on to its narrow majority, resulting in a form of divided government at the federal level. With the election behind us, we need the federal government to move swiftly in early 2021 to pass another round of stimulus to support our sector and other businesses, as well as provide funding to states, schools, and local governments facing revenue declines. Oregon’s Electoral Outcomes and Fiscal Future In our own backyard, Democrats did not achieve quorum-proof supermajorities they had hoped for this cycle, but they continue to hold supermajorities in both chambers of the Oregon Legislature, nonetheless. The only statewide office on the ballot this year was Secretary of State, and voters decisively elected Shemia Fagan (D) to the role. An Unprecendented Year in Advocacy for Caregivers and Vulnerable Seniors By Phil Bentley, J.D., Oregon Health Care Association We have been particularly proud at OHCA to serve our members during this challenging time.