Workers Protest Senate Home Health Care Cuts

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Health Care Workers

More than 150 home health care workers, advocates and consumers converged in Lansing, to ask the Senate to protect the service they provide to seniors and persons with disabilities.

The group marched from the Corrections Organizations Local office at 421 W. Kalamazoo in Lansing to the Boji Tower at 205 W. Allegan Street. They then attended a 2 p.m. Senate hearing on the budget for the Department of Community Health, where they called on Senators to protect home care services from any cuts.

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"If lawmakers are serious about finding long-term budget solutions, they will realize that we need to invest in home care, not cut it," said RoAnne Cheney, chair of the Michigan Quality Home Care Campaign. "Making cuts to caregiver's wages and hours will simply lead to higher turnover and increased state spending as seniors and people with disabilities are forced into institutional care settings."

The state budget last year set a minimum $7.00 per hour floor for home care workers' wages and raised wages already above that level by $0.50 an hour - the first raises in over a decade aimed at helping curb a 35 percent turnover rate in the workforce. The Senate in March passed a bill that would eliminate the $0.50 increase, while cutting wages further for caregivers in more than a dozen counties. In addition, the Senate proposal will make cuts to the number of hours of care that seniors and persons with disabilities receive.

Michigan's elderly population is expected to grow by 52 percent during the next 25 years, according to a 2003 report by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute---a statistic that shows the demand for such care will increase.

The Michigan Quality Home Care Campaign commissioned Anderson Economic Group to analyze the impact of increasing the wages of home care workers in Michigan. The Anderson Economic Group report found that pay increases for Home Help workers would save at least $276 million in Medicaid costs over the next six years.

Patrick Anderson of Anderson Economic Group (AEG) said that the nearly $8 million in proposed cuts to Michigan's Home Help program will actually end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars more by preventing seniors from staying in their own homes and instead pushing them into more costly nursing facilities.

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