Home health care providers

NY Times Editorial:

With more jobs being lost all the time across the board — more than 71,000 layoffs in the United States were announced on Monday and Tuesday alone — there should be comfort in the fact that one sector, health care, continues to add jobs. In December, employers added 32,000 health-related positions.

Unfortunately, one of the fastest-growing areas within the health care field — home care for the elderly — also is one of the lowest paid and most exploitable.

Outdated labor rules from 1975 allow home care aides to be defined as companions, which exempts their employers, usually private agencies, from federal standards governing overtime and minimum wages. As the population has aged, however, demand for home care has grown and the work has evolved far beyond companionship. It is not uncommon for home care workers to perform significant housekeeping chores and to help their elderly clients move, dress and eat, make sure they take their medicines and go to doctors’ appointments.

In its last days in office in 2001, the Clinton administration proposed a revision to the labor rules to allow federal protections to apply to personal home care aides, but the Bush administration promptly threw that out and reasserted the status quo. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling upheld the rules, and a push that year by House and Senate Democrats to pass a bill to update the law went nowhere.

According to the Labor Department, personal and home care aides are expected to be the second fastest-growing occupation in the United States from 2006-2016, increasing by 51 percent, slightly behind the expected growth in systems and data communications analysts.

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In an economic sense it is hard to say that these workers are underpaid if they make up the fastest growing job category. While they are working they are also getting food and a place to stay which makes up for the lower pay.

The fact is that these car givers generally stay until the elderly have used up their saving and then they are moved into a nursing home. If the cost of home health care is driven up as the Times and the Democrats want to do that will mean that more of the elderly will be pushed into nursing homes more quickly further driving up the cost to the government.

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