Doug Robertson is the Director of Healthcare Regulation and Compliance for Right at Home and the 2022 recipient of HCAOA’s Allen Hager Legislative Award. He has 25 years of experience in government affairs, analyzing legislation and an understanding of both corporate and association needs and perspectives.
HCAOA interviewed Doug to learn more about why he became involved in HCAOA committee work and his advice to other members.
Why did you become involved in advocacy with HCAOA?
Robertson: “HCAOA was looking for people to volunteer their time and I thought my interests and experience might benefit the association and help advance its goals both at the federal and the state level.”
“I have a lot of experience with state home care licensing and spent the last few years researching VA related issues,” he said. “So, when Vicki Hoak asked me to chair the VA Council, I thought that would be a great way to use the platform of [HCAOA] to develop a relationship on behalf of the industry with VA leadership… which was sorely needed. After [we began] those conversations with VA leadership, come to find out they were very interested in having that communication as well.”
Why do you believe advocacy is important for the home care industry?
Robertson: “Well, I think you need to make your viewpoints known to decision makers who don't necessarily know what it's like to be in your shoes, and you can't assume that what you find to be common sense is common sense to them. They have their perspectives based upon what they know. And quite often when you talk to a policymaker, there can be some “aha moments,” particularly when you can [present your facts and data and] add a human side to your story. [Policymakers] need to hear it multiple times from as many sources as possible.
“Policymakers hear a lot about the labor needs of the home care community. But they need to hear about the client needs, the cost of care and the value of the providers. There is a large swath of seniors in our country that have sufficient assets that they wouldn’t’ qualify for Medicaid, but insufficient assets to sufficiently cover long-term care. They and their family members are all pooling their resources together to pay… [for care, which] puts a great strain on the senior, as well as those around them. We need to make that as loud as the other perspectives.”
What impact have you been able to help make in legislation and advocacy?
Robertson: “By joining together with other HCAOA members and pooling our collective experiences with the VA, [we have been able to] connect the dots, see the trends, and present to the VA specific examples of what works and what doesn’t—that has been a very powerful argument in support of our position… that helps VA realize the reality of the impact of their decisions on the provider experience, and in the veteran experience nationwide. And that has empowered VA to make decisions. For example, when they doubled the duration of the authorizations from 180 days to 365 days to cut the paperwork for both their staff as well as our provider staff… That required a great deal of time, investment and communication … [and] was not an easy change, but because of the information that [HCAOA members provided], they realized it was a significant issue and they needed to do something about it.”
“[One state] where I have had influence would be New York. [Right at Home] deals with license issues regularly in New York and had advocated for a long time to get a license application done and released. [Working with HCAOA and Vicki Hoak], we finally saw the license application released. Currently, with HCAOA, we are working to support a home care tax credit in New York to offset the home care minimum wage.”
How can other members make an impact?
Robertson: “Definitely get engaged with your state chapter and participate. Participate in Chapter meetings, Zoom calls, make sure you receive the weekly HCAOA Home Care Insider which comes out on Wednesday. Read about issues happening, not just in your state, but nationally and in other states. Come to the HCAOA Annual Meeting. And then volunteer in your state chapter to fill a role.
“I feel very strongly that the strength of the Home Care Association of America rests on Chapter engagement because that's where the providers have personal relationships with HCAOA and other HCAOA members. Through their local HCAOA Chapter activities, engagement, and talking to their state legislators, members can feel part of a larger community and engaged in making improvements to regulations and legislation that have direct impact on them.
“There are more providers in [HCAOA’s] VA Community Care Network now. As a result of the work of the Council, veterans have more options for care across the country. That's exceptional.”
What does receiving the Allen Hager Legislative Award mean to you?
Robertson: “Well, it's a very humbling experience and I'm very grateful for appreciation for what I try to contribute to the association to improve the experience of our providers, our members and make things better for seniors ultimately, as well.
“I’m grateful to Right at Home to be given the opportunity to be with HCAOA. I’m grateful to Margaret Haynes and the rest of the leadership for those opportunities.”
HCAOA CEO Vicki Hoak shared gratitude and appreciation of Doug and his contributions to the association upon the announcement of his award.
“Doug watches regulations across the country on behalf of Right at Home franchisees. He loves regulations and advocacy,” said HCAOA CEO Vicki Hoak.
“The most unique thing about Doug is that he is willing to share that expertise and knowledge with all members of HCAOA for the good of the industry. He is open, a consensus builder and a leader. When we began the HCAOA Veteran’s Affairs Advisory Council, people were really upset [with the VA]. Over the past 3 years, [Doug] has served in HCAOA, he has helped to positively influence the relationship with the VA, to form state chapters–in NY, WV, and others–and it’s always about the Association. He shares information that may influence the members because he cares. Members like Doug help to make HCAOA a powerful, influential organization.”