Tennessee eligible for $157M in funding to improve caregiving for the elderly, disabled

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Posted at 5:43 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 13:53:44-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — New federal funding may make it easier for some Tennesseans to get quality care at home.

In May, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued guidance on how states can receive enhanced funding, provided through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), to increase access to home and community-based services (HCBS) for Medicaid beneficiaries.

Tennessee has until July 12 to apply.

On Monday, the Tennessee Coalition for Better Aging held a virtual meeting about the funding. Coalition leaders made recommendations about how Tennessee could use the $157 million in federal Medicaid funding.

"We need to expand provider capacity by increasing reimbursement rates, we also need to increase financial incentives to attract workers to this profession and give them a career ladder and also pay them a livable wage," said Grace Smith, co-chair of the Tennessee Coalition for Better Aging.

Advocates representing the home- and community-based care industry talked about gaps and challenges for older and disabled Tennesseans who need critical services.

"Home care workers are difficult to find in a rural area and have high variation showing up," said Vickie Harris, a family caregiver.

Vickie Harris cares for her father and mother with her brother. Harris said they aren't working with a direct care worker because they are not typically consistent.

"They get these no shows and they call the agency... and the agency apologizes and [says] we'll try to get someone out there," Harris said about friends who struggle keeping a caregiver.

During the virtual meeting, the group agreed relatives who take care of disabled or aging family members, like Harris, need more support too.

"Family caregivers not under the medicaid umbrella, TennCare umbrella, are like trees falling in the forest and nobody hears them falling," Harris said.

The American Rescue Plan Act requires states to maintain current home- and community-based services (HCBS), including funding and eligibility, and use the new federal funds to improve or expand services. The new federal dollars must be spent, and services delivered by March 31, 2024.