Home care providers are some of the most important workers in a health care industry that has been facing numerous crises and changes in recent years. While hospitals are attempting to reduce time patients spend in their care, that means they are discharging them sooner than ever and some move on to nursing home care for a time while others are sent home to recover.
When patients return home to continue with their recovery, many of them may need some level of assistance and support, at least for a few days, weeks, or months. Family and friends often step up to help, but in home health care workers provide the backbone of support for these millions of men and women.
Unfortunately, many of these in home care aides and even visiting nurses are currently unable to get adequate care for themselves. In an industry that can’t offer its workers consistent hours, many home care providers are unable to find more than 30 hours of work each week and, as a result, may not qualify for employer provided health insurance coverage.
As reported by The Augusta Chronicle in the blog, Home care workers in health care wasteland, written by Shefali Luthra for Kaiser Health News:
“But because of the low wages and the hourly structure of this industry — which analysts estimate is worth nearly $100 billion annually and projected to grow rapidly — workers like Thompson often don’t have health insurance. Many home health agencies, 80 percent of which are for-profit, don’t offer coverage, or their employees don’t consistently clock enough hours to be eligible. They generally earn too much to qualify for public aid but too little to afford the cost of premiums.
“It’s a social justice issue. We have a workforce that is the backbone of long-term (care) services, and they themselves don’t have coverage,” said Caitlin Connolly, who runs a campaign to increase home care wages at the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy organization.”
There have been reports that many of the smaller home care agencies operate on profit margins in the single digits, and that was before the 14 percent cut to Medicaid reimbursements that were full realized this past January as part of the Affordable Care Act rollout. On such small profit lines, trimming expenses is sometimes the only way to continue to stay in business.
That offers little consolation for these home care workers who need care for themselves, but simply can’t afford it right now.