Gaining important insights on HCBS practices and policies

ADvancing States held its annual Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Conference in Washington, DC on August 14-18, 2022. UnitedHealthcare has long recognized the important work of ADvancing States and was a Platinum sponsor at this year's event.

The conference convened state leaders, who manage and deliver waivers and other HCBS programs, alongside advocates, vendors and other stakeholders who share an interest in improving state systems that deliver Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS). Expanding access to HCBS has been a key priority during the pandemic, as COVID-19 exposed risk to those living in congregate settings.

This year, I had the honor of participating as a session speaker and gained valuable insights on the practices and policies advancing HCBS.

HCBS Conference highlights

The HCBS Conference featured educational tracks by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Administration for Community Living (ACL). Sessions focused on measuring quality, social determinants of health (SDOH) and the workforce crisis. Addressing health equity was a major theme of the event.

During a powerful panel discussion, direct service providers (DSPs) shared their perspectives on how to address the workforce crisis. Maria Mann, a DSP for UnitedHealthcare National Advisory Board Member Jennifer Kucera, received a standing ovation for her candor when she spoke about how low pay is the greatest barrier to recruiting and retaining workers.

In additional sessions, Alison Barkoff, ACL Principal Deputy Administrator, and Daniel Tsai, Deputy Administrator and Director of Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS), discussed the important work happening at the federal level to advance health equity.

UnitedHealthcare sessions

Several UnitedHealthcare colleagues, board members and key partners facilitated and participated in sessions during the week. The sessions focused on a range of topics that included integrating care for dually eligible members, self-direction, improving primary care for people living with disabilities, SDOH, loneliness and social isolation:

  • I joined Kate Murray, Principal, Applied Self-Direction, to consider the challenges and opportunities affecting access to self-direction. We discussed opportunities to broaden ability to self-direction by partnering with the National Advisory Board and working to advocate for changes to policy and practice modifications.
  • Kersten Burns Lausch, Senior Policy Director, Delivery Systems, joined National Advisory Board members Jennifer Kucera, Donna Meltzer, CEO of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, and National FQHC Advisory Board member Dr. Marlen Trujillo, CEO of Spring Branch Community Health Center in Texas. They shared learnings from a policy report on primary care access and outcomes for Medicaid members living with disabilities.
  • Andy McMahon, Vice President, Community Investment & Innovation, discussed how UnitedHealthcare is developing innovative solutions focused on integrating housing and health care.
  • Kelley Johnson, Medicare Operations Director, discussed why plans must address loneliness and social isolation through evidence-based interactions for companionship and empowerment. 

New to the HCBS Conference this year was the inaugural class of the Next Gen HCBS Leaders Program. The program was developed by ADvancing States in collaboration with their Alumni Leadership Network and offers training and mentorship to 19 participants to support their growth as a state HCBS leader. UnitedHealthcare Community & State is the inaugural sponsor of the program.

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