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Top Democrats: CMS Rule Undermines Home Health Care Workers, Jeopardizes Quality of Care for Seniors and People with Disabilities

“The proposed rule lacks any statutory basis for targeting the process by which individual providers voluntarily contribute to their union or other benefits, such as health insurance, with their own wages.”

WASHINGTON – Today, Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, submitted a public comment to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma expressing their opposition to a proposed rule that would make it harder for home health care workers to direct their own wages to support their union.


The rule proposed by CMS would reverse a 2014 rule affirming that states may allow payments to third parties on behalf of an individual provider “for benefits such as health insurance, skills training, and other benefits customary for employees.” If the administration follows through on rescinding the rule, it would attempt to block home health care workers from contributing to unions directly out of their paychecks, which is the most common and convenient method for workers to support their union.


“The administration’s proposal to rescind this rule appears intended to limit the ability of home care workers and other independent providers to contribute their own wages to support their union to bargain for better working conditions, including safety protections and training,” the Members wrote. “Any restrictions that prohibit workers from contributing their own wages and benefits that support their health and wellbeing would both harm the workers and jeopardize the quality of care they provide for seniors and people with disabilities.”


Average hourly wages for home care workers have declined since 2004, adjusting for inflation, despite growing revenues in the home care industry.  Home care workers also have few opportunities for training or professional development, and the nature of the work can be stressful and isolating.  As a result of such poor conditions, annual turnover is as high as 50 to 60 percent. The challenge of meeting the demand for quality home health care workers will only worsen: More than 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day.


In addition, the Members sent a second letter calling on the administration to extend the public comment period, which expires today, for an additional 60 days to allow greater input from those who would be affected by the rule. “Thirty days is a woefully inadequate comment period,” they wrote.


The full text of the public comment letter is available here.


The full text of the request to extend the public comment period is available here