WASHINGTON, DC, Oct 30 –The Supreme Court has refused to grant the delay of a new Labor Department rule that is likely to have a serious impact on the elderly and home-bound. The ruling will take effect in a few weeks, according to Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens.
The home healthcare industry had asked the high court to stay the regulation requiring a hike in wages for “companionship workers” – those who help the elderly and disabled live in their own homes rather than in a nursing home. The industry still seeks a Supreme Court appeal of a lower court decision that okayed the pay hikes. In the meantime, the cost of companionship care will increase sharply, making it even harder for those who most need it to afford the cost.
“Home healthcare workers deserve a living wage but aging, disadvantaged Americans also deserve the help they need to live their daily lives in their own homes. Making matters worse is the fact that the ruling comes on the heels of reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for home healthcare services,” Weber noted.
Whether or not the Supreme Court agrees to hear the industry’s appeal is uncertain leaving millions of older and incapacitated individuals wondering how they will cope in the coming years.
The Visiting Nurse Service of New York, in a recent statement, called for a new focus on the issue. “Until we agree, as a country, that the services provided by America’s Home Health Aides are worth finding the extra Medicare and Medicaid dollars to pay them what they deserve, then we will continue to suffer the negative consequences of piecemeal measures.”
Weber pointed out that the average age of Medicare home healthcare beneficiaries is 82 and two-thirds of them live below the federal poverty level. They have chronic illnesses such as heart disease, COPD and diabetes. They live mostly in rural parts of the country where access to alternative care is limited and significantly more expensive.
“They are Medicare’s oldest, sickest and poorest beneficiaries and the majority of them are women. Meanwhile, the home healthcare sector, an industry with more than half a million employees will be devastated. In fact, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services says that some 5,000 home healthcare companies will go out of business by 2017,” he said.
Weber called on Congress to recognize the urgency of dealing with what he called “an intolerable situation that has far reaching consequences for the elderly and for the nation as a whole.”
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