Raising pay for home health care providers is a wonderful thing all around. It not only helps attract more experienced, quality care providers and also reduce turnover, it also helps those workers establish a higher quality of life with more financial resources. As the Minnesota legislature is engaged in intense budget discussions, a proposed increase of Medicaid reimbursements to personal care assistants –or home care providers– has been ongoing.
The goal is to increase hourly wages from $12 to $13.25. However, the major challenge legislators are facing is that the scheduled increase in reimbursement rates (the money paid out to agencies and other organizations that employ home care providers) is only scheduled to increase from $17.40 to $17.81 per hour. While that discrepancy may not seem significant, many of these agencies have already been struggling with reduced reimbursement rates at the federal level that were rolled out to help pay for the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
There are some concerns that an increase to minimum hourly wages paid to individual caregivers (without an increase to the agencies that employ them in order to compensate), it may reduce access to care for those in need.
As reported by the Star Tribune in its blog, Home health care providers say raise for PCAs could force many to retrench, written by Neal St. Anthony:
“I’m very concerned that many agencies will shut their doors or close their services to PCA Choice [Medicaid program] this summer,” said Jeff Bangsberg, a veteran advocate for the disabled and also board member of the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living. “Much of this is based on a bizarre formula from DHS. The department maintains the agencies can absorb this pay raise.
“We believe the wage data got skewed. The entry-level workers may start at $12 and the average is $12.38 an hour. The wage floor is now so tight that some employers will go out of business.”
If more companies go out of business because their profit margins are already razor thin then this type of proposal will only hit them harder; that could very well mean even as legislators hope to improve access to care for Minnesota residents, it could have a the opposite effect.
If legislators demand that wages increase for individual workers, the reimbursement rates through Medicaid may also need to increase at the same level, otherwise some agencies simply may not be able to survive.