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Home Care Industry Will Encounter 'Care Gap' Soon

Armen Hareyan's picture

As baby boomers "begin encountering the frailties of old age, thenation will face a widening 'care gap' that experts fear willcompromise the quality of home care and force people into nursing homestoo soon," the Dallas Morning Newsreports. The U.S., which today has about one million home care aides,will need as many as one million additional workers by 2017 and as manyas three million more by 2030, according to experts. The growth indemand will come from the age-65-and-over population doubling in thenext 25 years, in addition to a preference for receiving care at homeinstead of in nursing homes, according to the Morning News.

Thelabor market for home health care workers is not likely to increasebecause "the women who typically went to work as caregivers now havebetter-paying, less demanding options in other fields," the Morning Newsreports. Low wages and benefits, long hours and lack of training alsoprevent more people from entering the field. On average, home healthcare workers in 2005 made $17,710. The U.S. Supreme Court recentlyruled that home health care workers do not qualify for minimum wageovertime.

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Steven Dawson, president of the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute,said, "If we paid these people a livable wage, offered them healthinsurance, trained them better and listened to them, we'd solve this'workforce crisis' in months. But we can't do that as long as ourpolicymakers treat them as invisible" (Moos, Dallas Morning News, 7/4).

Opinion Piece

"The new Democratic Congress needs to restore the priority of homehealth care for senior citizens," Edward Koch, former New York Citymayor and former member of Congress, and Robert Weiner, a former chiefof staff of the House Committee on Aging and former legislativeassistant to Koch, write in a Long Island Newsdayopinion piece. According to Koch and Weiner, Medicare home health carespending since 2000 has been cut by 25% from $14 billion to $10.5billion, and it will face additional cuts in President Bush's proposedfiscal year 2008 budget, "which calls for an 'inflation freeze' thatwould slash $410 million in fiscal 2008 and $9.68 billion over fiveyears."

Meanwhile, spending for nursing home care hasincreased from $13.6 billion to $15.7 billion since 2000, even thoughhome care "is far cheaper" and offers a "higher quality of life" thannursing home care, Koch and Weiner write. The reason Congress does notprioritize home-based services is that the home care industry -- whichgenerally is composed of small health employment agencies -- does not"have nearly the lobbying power of big institutions like the nursinghome industry and the hospitals," according to Koch and Weiner(Koch/Weiner, Long Island Newsday, 7/6).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.