The people in the home care industry are suffering greatly, both workers and those who rely on services. There is a shortage of workers, and one main reason is that they are not being paid a living wage. If we do not move in the right direction, this problem will worsen, which we cannot afford. Home care workers are vital in allowing people to live independently in the community and avoid institutionalization. New York started to show these indispensable workers how valuable they are when their wages were increased in 2022, and now the state must continue to provide support and funding, NOT reverse the progress that has been made. Keep in mind that what we ask from these workers is not easy. People with disabilities rely on these workers to help with essential services. Home care workers deserve better than the Governor’s proposals in this year’s budget.
In 2022, initial steps were taken to right the wrong of underpaying workers by increasing wages by three dollars an hour over two years and indexing wages to inflation to ensure wages stay above minimum wage. Proposals from the Governor in this year’s Executive Budget, such as freezing and deindexing wages from inflation – keeping workers at minimum wage, and eliminating parity for downstate consumer-directed personal assistants are steps backward for the hard-working individuals who provide home care services. These workers give more than the minimum and should receive more than the minimum in return.
We were glad when the minimum wage for home care workers was raised by three dollars an hour last year. This was long overdue and a step towards making a stronger and better workforce. We did not expect that would be rendered pointless by the Governor’s new proposals to freeze and deindex wages for workers and end parity for some less than a year later.
Wage parity is essential to prevent the further shrinking of the essential home care workforce. While parity for consumer-directed personal assistants is not a permanent solution to the workforce shortages we face, it certainly can help to stem the shrinking workforce field. Eliminating CDPAS from wage parity and replacing it with a health insurance subsidy cuts wages by $4/hr., for most personal assistants in the downstate region.
This is unfair on multiple levels. First, it undervalues essential services. Secondly, many of these workers already receive insurance benefits, so this subsidy effectively provides no benefit. Most workers would rather keep their hard-earned money. How can we claim to value the selfless work of home care workers while reducing their wages?
Ensuring wages are at adequate levels is only one part of the equation. It is equally important to ensure workers see the increases in their paychecks. Some managed care companies still have not passed on the full and fair reimbursement to fiscal intermediaries. On average, a $2 raise for workers costs fiscal intermediaries $2.66, with only $1.85 passed on from insurance companies to the fiscal intermediaries and the workers; this is even with $1 billion set aside for insurance companies to fund the increases. Because of this shortchange, a third of fiscal intermediaries are forced to rely on credit to fund day-to-day operations, which is not sustainable. This is wrong and insurance companies should not be profiting off the backs of hard-working home care workers.
There is no magic solution to our problems; wage increases and protections must be included in the budget. Home care workers must be recognized as the skilled professionals they are and are paid accordingly. This essential workforce needs to grow larger to service the needs of our population, and the current system is not allowing that.
We commend our local members in the Assembly and Senate – Assemblymember Bronson, Sen. Brouk, Sen. Cooney, and Sen. Helming who have supported these essential workers and services. As well as the Assembly and Senate leadership, who have issued proposals to reverse the damage that the Governor’s proposals would create, including raising wages for workers and creating a system of accountability to ensure insurance companies are passing on funds for wage increases.
We encourage you to contact your local representatives and the Governor to let them know how important this is to you. You can use the links below to reach out and show your support for the workers and consumers of home care.