Companions & Homemakers’ Position on Recent Changes to Federal Labor Laws
Changes to longstanding federal labor laws, effective October 13, 2015 substantially alter the cost of live in homecare. Companions & Homemakers has opposed the new rules from the beginning and continues to advocate for their repeal.
Millions of Americans choose live in home care as a way to allow elderly relatives to remain independent in their homes, and the need for quality homecare and compassionate homecare providers has never been more apparent. Home care jobs are unique. The work is not for everyone, most caregivers find satisfaction in providing companionship and care, and assisting clients maintain their independent lifestyle at home. The presence of a live caregiver can be the critical difference in preventing institutionalized care, yet reality is that no person, not even the live in caregiver, works each hour of every day. Live in caregivers enjoy a significant amount of ‘down’ time; they care for one individual (at most two), in a private home, as opposed to multiple individuals in an institutional setting. These employees have the benefit of residence and are treated like members of the family. Their time spent on site is not one of constant beck and call; they attend to their own personal, individual needs, sleeping, eating and enjoying substantial time when they are free to pursue leisure activities. The new labor rules attempt to regulate when a caregiver is eating, sleeping or is relieved from duty; in no other industry is this personal time regulated
Not every family’s situation is the same. Some prefer to hire a caregiver directly, some prefer to hire through a home care agency. Home care agencies provide the benefit of oversight, accountability and structure to the caregivers in their employ. Agencies pay their caregivers more than the minimum wage and provide generous benefit packages. Agencies ensure that each relationship is structured to match the needs of the client with the most qualified and effective caregiver. In Connecticut, Home Care Agencies are regulated by the Department of Consumer Protection, providing oversight and quality control.
Government should be doing more to improve homecare and ensure that homecare services remain affordable. By any standard of measurement, the new rules will increase costs and burden employers, homeowners and caregivers. The rules will likely force employers to utilize legal room and board deductions from caregiver wages as a cost saving measure, inserting conflict into the ‘family’ relationship that caregivers and their clients enjoy. The result – employers paying increased hourly wages but lowering take home pay by deducting authorized expenses – benefits neither the client, caregiver or employer. The new rules also mean families enjoying the benefit of one consistent caregiver may now need to split home services among multiple caregivers; again, a cost saving measure forced upon families by the new rules. Companions & Homemakers believes a family should have the benefit of one perfectly matched live in caregiver, one the family can count upon to provide the care and homemaking they require.
As families and caregivers struggle with these adjustments, Companions & Homemakers, now in its 26th year, stands ready to provide assistance, oversight and leadership on these important issues. Change comes to all things – some welcome, some not – and we will always put your needs first. Even for a company with our size and experience the challenges of facing this change has been considerable. It is inconceivable, but quite apparent, that these rules considered how individual families could undertake compliance with these rules without the benefit of help from their live in caregiver’s employer.
Companions & Homemakers strenuously objects to these changes and continues to make our case to Federal and State Legislators and Regulators as to the negative impacts these rule changes will have on live in caregivers and clients. If you would like to lend your voice in opposition to these new regulations, click this link to contact your representatives in Washington and Hartford.
We hope you will join our advocacy efforts, supporting legislation beneficial to the home care industry. Below please find excerpts of testimony we have given to state legislators as part of these efforts.
Excerpts from Testimony before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Aging Committee regarding Medicaid Reimbursement Rates
Delivered by Jonathan Hunt, Regional Care Manager, Companions & Homemakers
February 26th, 2015
“My name is Jonathan Hunt. I am a Regional Care Manager with Companions & Homemakers, Inc., one of Connecticut’s largest employers of non-medical home care under Connecticut’s Home Care Program for Elders. We employ approximately 8% of Connecticut’s total estimated 40,000 domestic workers and serve thousands of seniors throughout Connecticut, many whom are Medicaid recipients.”
“As minimum wage costs have increased, Connecticut’s Medicaid reimbursement rate for services in the Home Care Program for Elders has not come close to keeping pace. The reimbursement rate has increased once in seven years, by $.15 per hour. Over the past 20 years, minimum wage has increased 103% while our reimbursement rate has only increased by 17%.”
“Increased business costs, coupled with stagnant reimbursement rates, make it more and more difficult for providers to pay caregivers more than the minimum wage, creating a ripple effect. It is more difficult to retain quality caregivers, triggering repeated hiring costs; and, causing caregivers to leave the home care field for less demanding (though no less important) employment. More importantly, caregiver turnover negatively impacts the continuum of care to our very deserving clients.”
“In addition to a request for higher increase in reimbursement rates, Companions & Homemakers is committed to ensuring that any and all increases to reimbursement rates will go directly to caregiver wages and associated costs.”
“Annual reimbursement increases assure providers will receive a rate that keeps pace with cost increases, will help Connecticut budget more effectively, and will encourage more providers to participate in programs designed to provide vital, non-medical home care. The alternative, which will soon be a reality if we continue on this path, is that there will no longer be any providers willing or able to provide quality care at the current and projected reimbursement rates when taking into account all of the additional costs we’ve incurred.”
Excerpts from Testimony before Connecticut General Assembly’s Aging Committee regarding S.B. 244 “An Act Increasing Home Care Provider Rates”
Delivered by Jonathan Hunt, Regional Care Manager, Companions & Homemakers
March 4th, 2014
“My name is Jonathan Hunt and I am a manager at Companions & Homemakers, Inc., a homemaker-companion agency with 11 offices throughout Connecticut… As a manager, I work every day with caregivers, clients and their families.”
“I am here to speak on behalf of our 3,000 caregiver employees who provide essential care services to Connecticut’s elderly population. These services include companionship, house cleaning, meal preparation, grocery shopping, transportation to medical appointments and help with daily personal care.”
“The quality and consistency of the provision of these services is in a decline due to reimbursement rates that do not allow us to pay a decent living wage to our caregivers.”
“Since 1994, the minimum wage has increased over 103% while our reimbursement rate has only increased 17%. With the most recent minimum wage increase in January 2014, we are unable to increase our rate for companion services above the new minimum wage.”
“At each legislative session since 2010, we have been told ‘not to ask for an increase because there is no money.’ Yet, each session adds more costs to our industry.”
“We have pledged to put any new reimbursement increases towards our employees’ wages and associated costs. Our caregivers deserve no less.”