Bill aims to increase pay for RI’s home care nurses

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – Teagan Grant is 11 years old. She was born prematurely and needs specialized, around-the-clock care.

“My husband and I alone just can’t do that,” Teagan’s mom Kim Grant said. “We both work. We have a mortgage.”

Grant says her family is fortunate to have home care nurses, but the care hasn’t always been consistent. 

“We actually just had a nurse leave unfortunately,” Grant said. “She needed more money. She wanted to start a family.”

According to a comparison of state data, the Medicaid reimbursement rate for private duty nurses in Rhode Island is about 40% lower than the rate in Massachusetts.

Nurses can also make more money working in a doctor’s office or hospital. The difference is often $10 to $15 an hour, according to Ashley Sadlier of Bayada Home Health Care, a company that employs about 160 home care nurses. 

“Families across Rhode Island are not getting the services that they need because there’s a workforce issue,” Sadlier explained. “There are nurses out there that are not choosing to work in home care because they’re not going to be able to get paid what they need to get paid.”

Now, the home care nursing industry is fighting for a pay increase. A bill introduced by Rep. Patricia Serpa would increase the base rate for Medicaid-contracted home nursing and hospice providers by 40 percent. The estimated cost in the state budget is $2 million. 

“My fear is, if this bill does not pass and the few companies that are left can’t stay afloat, what do we do?” Grant said. “It’s not like we can just pack up our whole life and move to another state. It just doesn’t work like that.”

The R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services would have to implement the new reimbursement rate, if passed. A spokesperson for the agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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