Legislation passed today by the House will preserve the state’s ability to provide a nationally recognized level of in-home health care at a lower cost than in 37 other states.

Having already passed out of the Senate, Senate Bill 6199 now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

“We have the best in-home care delivery system in the nation because we provide long-term care for seniors in their homes,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver and the bill’s sponsor. “But as we have grown as a state, the administrative support for our best-in-the-nation system has not kept up with that growth.”

The state depends on case managers at state-contracted Area Agencies on Aging to authorize care and check on clients in their homes to ensure they are safe and receive the services they need. Over the years, the administrative demands have grown to the point that case managers have had to take on an ever-increasing administrative load of paperwork for individual home care providers. As a result, medical social workers now handle payroll administration and verify continuing education compliance, Cleveland said.

“When the state took on this approach more than a decade ago, there were less than 2,000 individual providers, with no benefits or pay scales,” said Cleveland, the chair of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee. “Today there are more than 35,000 providers trying to cope with a multiplying array of administrative requirements. This will let them focus on keeping our seniors health and safe in their homes.”

The bipartisan legislation will allow the Department of Social and Health Services to contract these growing administrative tasks to a private-sector vendor with the expertise to handle such work. Nineteen other states including Arizona, California and Nevada have already successfully adopted this approach of privatizing this administrative function.

“I was pleased to bring this bill forward at the request of the Area Agencies on Aging and DSHS to addresses a longstanding and increasing need,” Cleveland said. “When case managers are forced to juggle multiple responsibilities every day, every administrative task takes away from their ability to focus on their clients’ well-being.”