Home Health Aides’ Low Wages: Turning Public Awareness into Action

Home health aides keep hundreds of thousands of disabled adults and seniors at home and out of costlier settings. Low Medicaid reimbursement rates keep them from making a better wage, and it's up to state governments to address this issue.
Home health aides keep hundreds of thousands of disabled adults and seniors at home and out of costlier settings.

As home care clients, employees, caregivers, and family members, we know one thing for a fact: Home health aides do incredible, compassionate work that enable hundreds of thousands of residents across the country to stay at home and out of costlier, more infectious settings like nursing homes and hospitals. And we certainly know another fact: The work that aides do is invaluable, and it’s time that they begin to receive a fair wage for the hard work they do.

Low aide wages have recently made national headlines and the message is clear: We will need more and more home health aides as America’s population continues to age. But home health care providers are having trouble recruiting and retaining the quality, reliable workforce needed to keep up with the growing demand.

Recently, Hearts for Home Care advocate and BAYADA Home Health Care’s chief government affairs officer, Dave Totaro, submitted his opinion on the matter to STAT News, a media company focused on finding and telling compelling stories about health, medicine, and scientific discovery. He posed the question:

“To say that home health aides’ work is demanding is an understatement. They make it possible for 14 million Americans to stay in their homes and out of expensive and impersonal institutional settings like hospitals and nursing homes. Performing this necessary and in-demand work takes a physical and emotional toll, yet these individuals do it with compassion day in and day out.

So why do we treat home health aides as low-wage, low-value workers?”

The problem lies primarily in states’ low Medicaid funding for home care programs. Though states typically pay an hourly rate for providers who deliver home health aide services, these rates have largely been low for many years, or raised periodically, but at a rate too low to keep up with real costs of living and providing services. Because these rates must cover wages, training, benefits, new hire costs such as background checks and TB shots, and supplies, it is nearly impossible for home health care companies to take such a low rate and provide aides with a wage high enough to compete with industries like fast food and retail.

News coverage of the issue has been effective in bringing greater public awareness to the issue, especially as nearly all individuals will be touched by home care at least once in their lives, whether it be for themselves, a parent, friend, or other loved one. Now is the time to take awareness and turn it into action. Call your state legislator and let them know what home care means to you. Contact advocacy@bayada.com for information on what you can do to share your voice and support home health aides.

U.S. Senate Aging Committee Staff Spends Day with BAYADA

Submitted by Laura Ness, Director, Government Affairs (GAO)

Recently, Samantha Koehler, policy aide to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging for ranking member U.S. Senator Bob Casey, and Vicki Hoak, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, spent the day in Philadelphia with BAYADA Home Health Care.  During her time with us, Samantha spent time learning about the inner workings of our service office and went on two home visits, one to an assistive care state programs client and another to a hospice client.

During Samantha’s visit, we discussed the most recent issues to impact home care in Pennsylvania including the institutional bias that still exists, the challenges with the recent proposal to block grant or institute per-capita caps to Medicaid, and the harmful proposed home health groupings rule.

Samantha loved getting to spend some time with Ms. Lenora E. and her aide Kimyatta J. Ms. E has been a BAYADA client for over a year and gets nine hours of care a day.  She is served by the Philadelphia Corporation of Aging (PCA) office. She also met Florence G., a 101-year-old heart patient who can remain at home with her daughter because of the care we deliver. She loves her Clinical Manager Faith Brown almost as much as she loves her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren. Grace is served out of the Pennsylvania Media Hospice (PMH) office.

A big thank you to the PCA and PMH staff for hosting Samantha!

Executive Director of PHA Vicki Hoak, BAYADA Aide Kimyatta J., BAYADA Client Lenora E. and Policy Aide Samantha Koehler sit and discuss home care.

Client Corner

Submitted by Rick Hynick, Director of Family and Client Advocacy GAO)

Efforts are under way to communicate with adult offices that work with assistive care clients through the OLTL program.  By bringing caregiving experiences together with voices of our clients and families, BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office has the ability to team up with service offices to fight for better reimbursement, which in turn can help with staff recruitment and retention.

 

Champions Among Us, a BAYADA quarterly newsletter dedicated to pediatric and adult client family advocacy, will soon become part of Care Connections, and will provide our clients with quarterly updates.

 

Don’t forget to join Hearts For Home Care at www.heartsforhomecare.com   and help a client or family to join as well to become part of a growing group of people who are ready to advocate for a better tomorrow for home health care.  An advocacy Facebook page will soon be underway and will be dedicated to advocacy efforts and clients’, families’ and our employees’ activities.  Looking forward to seeing everyone at Awards Weekend!

CRO Division Uniting With Philadelphia Families In Advocacy

Submitted by Rick Hynick, Director, Client and Family Advocacy

Director of Government Affairs in Pennsylvania Laura Ness and I met with Division Director Kevin Kuzmick and several of the service office directors from the CRO division at the Government Affairs Office (GAO) this past Wednesday.  The meeting focused on the development of advocacy efforts for the clients and families who receive assistive care services from the Office of Long Term Living waiver in the Philadelphia area service offices.  An exciting outcome from the meeting was the idea of having a “family day” in the Philadelphia area where our families and staff can advocate for a better tomorrow.