L’Italien Uses “Maiden Speech” to Win Senate Support for Elder Home Care Proposal
May 22, 2015 12:35PM ● Published by Kieran Gilman
State Semator Barbara L'Italien
BOSTON – Sen. Barbara L’Italien gave her “Maiden Speech,” her first as a state senator, Wednesday to secure Senate support for a state budget amendment that would allow 9,000 more Massachusetts elders to qualify for home care services.
Sen. L’Italien’s proposal allows more elders to qualify for home health care assistance by raising the income eligibility cutoff from approximately $27,000 per year to $35,000 per year for a single person.
Currently, about 45,000 elders qualify for home care assistance.
“This amendment begins an initiative that will save our Commonwealth money in our MassHealth budget by reducing the numbers of elders seeking expensive nursing home care,” Sen. L’Italien (D-Andover) told a packed Senate chamber during the second day of its ongoing state budget debate. “This initiative relies strictly on new federal dollars to help us achieve an overall reduction in long-term care spending.”
Sen. L’Italien’s speech ended with a rousing ovation from her colleagues, who unanimously passed her amendment.
“We can all go back (to our cities and towns) and say we did something for the seniors of our district,” Sen. L’Italien told her colleagues.
Sen. L’Italien, who has made advocating for elders and individuals with special needs a major focus of her career, relied on personnel experience to make her case in support of the home care proposal. The senator, a former social worker and elder services manager at Merrimack Valley Elder Services, lived with her now-90-year-old mother for more than two decades, including taking care of her for the last five years.
“This initiative has the potential to help 9,000 elders,” Sen. L’Italien said. “many of whom are single women who want to stay at home but don’t have a family member able to provide consistent care for them as their needs change.”
After the Senate passes its spending plan later this week, the home care proposal will be taken up by a committee of top senators and state representatives charged with negotiating and consolidating the Senate and House plans into the Legislature’s final budget proposal. The spending plan then goes to Gov. Charlie Baker for final passage.
“This is a population that can stay home in their homes longer and continue to live their lives and enjoy the company of family and friends if they can get services they need,” Sen. L’Italien said.
Al Norman, executive director of Massachusetts Home Care, praised Sen. L’Italien’s efforts on behalf of elders.
“This was a skilled bit of legislating and an example of endurance by Sen. L’Italien,” Norman said. “It’s not easy to get additional resources in this competitive environment, but Sen. L’Italien proved to be a skillful negotiator and a great advocate for elders. This amendment will be a great help to lower- and middle-class families that can’t afford home care on their own.”
Sen. L’Italien represents the communities of Andover, Lawrence, Tewksbury and Dracut. She is a freshman senator and former four-term member of the House of Representatives.