I have written a number of articles over the last couple of years concerning the cost of home care in California increasing dramatically as the Legislature passes new laws governing wage and hour issues for caregivers, including:
- Overtime Exemption for Home Care Aides
- Overtime Pay: A Caregiver’s Perspective
- California Caregiver Laws, A Followup
While some of the new laws (licensing of home care agencies, for example), we fully support, some of the changes we argued against, not because we do not want caregivers to be paid more – we absolutely believe that Home Care Aides are very much underpaid. The issue in removing the long-time exemption from overtime that caregivers had in California, for example, is who is paying the bill? The answer has been and remains, the seniors on fixed incomes and the families who try to help them get the help they need.
When we wrote and talked to California legislators about the laws they were passing, and the 30%-50% increase in costs associated with them, we said, please help us and our clients and families convince Medicare and Kaiser and Blue Cross and all the other providers of health insurance that the non-clinical health care that caregivers provide should be included in their insurance benefits. We have the data. We know that non-clinical home care helps provide better health care outcomes, at less cost, than purely clinical health care can provide, by itself. Let’s get Medicare and the others to help defray the costs, so that Home Care Aides can be paid what they deserve. Otherwise, you are forcing people to do without the care they need or move out of their homes, to receive inadequate care in some facility, ultimately relying on Medicaid.
Well, we have not won that battle yet. Blue Shield and Dignity Health and Medicare and Humana, et al., still do not pay any of the costs of non-clinical home care. But, the laws of overtime and higher minimum wage and others are real, and law-abiding home care agencies are supposed to follow them. That was made even more clear last week, when the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that companies that have been deducting wages from employees using a so-called “sleep time exemption” were absolutely, 100% WRONG.
At Support For Home In-Home Care, we have been telling our friendly – and not so friendly – competitors for years that Home Care Aides have to be paid for every hour they are on shift, even if they are asleep but on call. Since January 1 of 2014, we have been telling them that a 24-hour shift in California means 9 hours of regular pay and 15 hours of overtime. We have been ranting that doing anything less than that is illegal and unethical:
Well, now the California Supreme Court has spoken, and way too many home care agencies are running around yelling that the sky has fallen and pretending they did not have any idea what they were doing was wrong. We have been virtually the only California agency we could find that has been fully operating the way in which we knew the law required.
Look for a number of companies to fold and others to all of a sudden announce much higher prices to their clients. The latter issue is sad, but it is what we have been pointing out for several years. At some point, you have to say, “I may not like the laws, but I either operate within them (as Support For Home has done) or I get out of the business and go sell shoes.” I have thought about that many times, but what we do is just too important.
Best wishes. Bert