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West Palm Beach Home Nursing Agencies Wrestle With Wage Issues

West Palm Beach nursing home patients could see a reduction in the number and quality of services if legislative efforts to reform the pay scale of nursing assistants is successful.

Our West Palm Beach nursing home neglect lawyers are concerned about both sides of the debate bubbling over in Washington.

On the one hand, President Obama has proposed a measure that would mandate a minimum wage and overtime pay for licensed home health care workers, saying that right now, they are lumped in the same category as babysitters in terms of how much they earn. The reason for this is a 1974 congressional decision, which considered the sky-high costs of home health care as reason for exempting home health care workers from receiving overtime and minimum wage. Many of these workers receive less than $10 an hour, and work without the benefit of overtime. Entry level is about $8.50 hourly. The state’s minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 hourly.

The president’s reasoning is that better pay will lead to less turnover and ultimately, a better quality of care.

The problem, though, is who will cover that cost, particularly for the overtime. With federal and state funding stretched to a breaking point, a lot of the agencies that provide in-home health care services would likely be forced to either increase their rates or lay off employees.

Many patients aren’t going to be able to afford the increase in expenses, and will receive a reduced level of care as a result.

Florida is one of 29 states that allows the individual agencies to decide what to pay their home health care workers. Many of these agencies could not absorb the wage hike costs.

It’s estimated there are some 2 million home health care workers in the country, with about 31,000 in Florida working with some 2,100 agencies. The industry is expected to grow exponentially over the next eight years, ballooning to some 3 million home health care workers across the country.

An average home health care worker may have as many as 70 clients, for whom he or she visits to provide services such as bathing, IV insertion and wound care. They also help with basic in-home tasks, such as laundry, shopping and meal preparation for individuals who are unable to complete those tasks themselves.

In many cases, these workers actually qualify for food stamps and other government assistance.

Only a portion of these agencies accept Medicaid reimbursement, which is what many less well-to-do patients rely on to cover their health expenses. That reimbursement is always at a flat-rate per patient. Now, further complicating the issue, is that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission is asking Congress to reduce those reimbursement rates. It argues that the profit margin in the industry is high enough to do so. The home health agencies disagree.

If you or a loved one have suffered from nursing home abuse in West Palm Beach or the surrounding areas, contact the Law Offices of Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez for legal assistance. 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Overtime pay for home health care workers proposed, By Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:
Wellington Nursing Home Neglect, Abuse Could be Exacerbated by Nursing Shortage, March 15, 2012, West Palm Beach Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Blog

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