The New Jersey Legislature is taking concrete steps to improve the lives of individuals who require long term care services. Several bills introduced this session are focused on ameliorating the staffing shortages that are so prevalent in the long-term care industry. A2442, recently signed into law, establishes reciprocity for out-of-state certified nurse aides. This will streamline the process for aides who are licensed in other states and want to work in New Jersey. More ambitious legislation has been introduced. S3494 would establish an income tax credit for tuition-paid nurse aide training programs.
The most significant proposed legislation is S3491, which raises the Medicaid reimbursement rate for personal care services to $25. The current Medicaid reimbursement rate for personal care services provided in the managed care delivery system is a minimum of $16.12 per hour. This is the rate paid to agencies, which then must cover administrative costs, as well as wages for workers. New Jersey’s Medicaid reimbursement rate for personal care services is one of the lowest in the United States, and on average, approximately 25 percent less than neighboring states. As a result, Medicaid home health agencies cannot offer competitive wages and attract workers. This leads to constant turnover and shortage of aides willing to work for Medicaid agencies. As noted in the bill’s preamble, the Department of Human Services’ home and community-based services initiative cannot succeed without adequate reimbursement to home health agencies and workers. This legislation, which would increase the reimbursement rate to $25 per hour by 2024, would be an important first step in meeting the promise of providing comprehensive and cost-effective home and community-based services.
Legislation was also introduced to ensure LGBT residents in long-term care facilities receive equal treatment. A-5075 would ensure that residents are not discriminated against and that their privacy and rights are protected, including the right to use facilities in accordance with their gender identity.
Also signed by the governor was a new law establishing a New Jersey Caregiver Taskforce to provide recommendations on caregiver services. Taken together, these legislative actions could have meaningful benefits for both the seniors needing long-term care and the family members who provide care to them.
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