Home Health Care Reimbursement Rate Increase in Rhode Island Not Enough: Agencies

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As there is increased pressure on home care agencies to pay their providers more, a significant challenge many states are facing have to do with budget considerations. In Rhode Island, the governor has made public the goal of increasing Medicaid spending for in home care services by 7 percent, but many agencies operating through the state claim that’s simply not enough.

At issue for the agencies is turnover. Because of generally lower wages, these agency owners state that it has become difficult to maintain consistency among their staff. They are calling on more significant increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates. Having trouble keeping up with decent salaries can pose a number of challenges for any profession, but even more so for in home care because of the increased demand on these workers.

As noted in the Rhode Island Public Radio post, Home Health Care Agencies Say Proposed Raise Isn’t Enough, written by Kristin Gourlay:

“We have a revolving door of good quality staff members that are making just slightly above minimum wage whereas, eight years ago,” says Oliver (Nicholas Oliver of Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care], “they were a couple of dollars over minimum wage.”

Some communities have reported waiting lists for home health care.”

A major concern from the legislative side of the argument, though, is that budgets are stretched thin and there is only so much that can be done to increase spending in this area. While there are many different social services required, with groups from all corners of the state clamoring for extra funding, it’s not always possible to devote the level of funds that an entire industry is hoping to attain.

However, at the same time, many of these agencies are being pressured into increasing their hourly rates for these indispensable workers, even though they may not have the financial support to do so.

At the moment, the in home care industry is expected to be the number one job generator in the country, but with increased pressure from the Department of Labor that has provided hourly and overtime pay protections for these workers, a decrease in federal spending for in home care through Medicaid, and more states facing tight budgets, it may not be possible to increase wages without having seniors and other clients who require this level of support losing some of the care they currently receive.

Rhode Island has taken steps to increase spending for in home care, but it may not be enough to truly make a difference in attracting and keeping the best caregivers.

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