New York is embroiled in a tough situation. While state lawmakers have jumped on the minimum wage hike bandwagon, there hasn’t been enough attention paid to the state’s reimbursement rates for in home care services. This is, at least, according to a number of rural home care providers who made the case before the Assembly that some are being forced out of business and that’s going to have devastating repercussions for the elderly and disabled.
The Assembly committees on health, aging, labor and health convened a hearing to discuss this important topic last Monday and while the legislators will be negotiating the finalization of the budget for the next fiscal year, there were two different opinions presented before the legislature. One came from Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson who essentially stated the system was sound and no changes were needed.
The Times Union in Albany reported in the article, Lawmakers hear of crisis in home care, written by Casey Seiler:
“Helgerson said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal called for $480 million to cover the costs of helping entities that pay direct-care workers meet the obligations of the state-mandated rise in the minimum wage. The state Health Department, he said, has taken an active role in ensuring that the funds intended to boost the hourly pay of care workers was ending up in their pockets.
Others disputed Helgerson’s confidence in the level of support, and complained that the state’s reimbursement rates have remained stagnant.
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, chair of the aging committee, said she was concerned at the prospect of care workers switching to working in fast food, a sector in which a panel convened by Cuomo imposed minimum wage increases that are outstripping those for other fields.”
On the other side of the argument were some providers and nonprofit organizations that represented constituents in more rural regions of the state, like the Adirondacks. These providers claim that the cost of providing care is higher and access to providers is lower in these regions because of the distance, terrain, weather issues, and other challenges. Some witnesses testified that there are patients who have been approved for home care and other services who have to wait because there are simply no caregivers available.
Salaries and reimbursements were the topics that took center stage, but a long-term focus was also mentioned in which some have iterated concerns that there may not be enough caregivers to fill the needs of an increasingly aging population.