LiveWellNebraska reported the difficulty facing many home care workers who serve elderly and disabled Medicaid patients. They say they are being paid more slowly than before, and the delays are affecting their ability to pay bills. In Nebraska, some of the workers have asked the Nebraska Association of Public Employees for help. Home care workers in Iowa also have complained about slow payments, according to the union that represented them until recently.
The problems are a disincentive to go into home care, which involves doing such tasks as laundry, cooking and house cleaning for patients, driving them to doctors’ appointments and performing other services that help patients remain at home instead of going into higher-cost nursing homes.
Nebraska’s Medicaid director, Calder Lynch, acknowledges there have been challenges over the past eight months and blames federal overtime rules affecting these workers.
Stephanie Beran, assistant ombudsman for the Nebraska Legislature, called home care workers’ complaints legitimate. “We’ve gotten a large volume of complaints,” Beran said. “It’s become kind of a systemic problem.” Beran said home workers are “doing incredibly important work, and I think it’s important to keep them happy. What’s so heartbreaking about some of this is, they’re just a number.”
There are about 5,500 independent home care providers in Nebraska, the state Department of Health and Human Services estimated. Other home care providers work for agencies, such as Caretech and Caring Senior Services in Omaha. Some larger home care companies, such as Right at Home, predominantly serve private-pay clients rather than Medicaid clients.
The number of Americans ages 70 and older increased from 21.1 million in 1990 to 27.8 million in 2010, a 32 percent jump. And that number is expected to rise by 38 percent, to 38.2 million, in 2020, said David Drozd of the UNO Center for Public Affairs Research.
Mike Marvin, executive director of the Nebraska Association of Public Employees, hopes to help them form an advocacy group and to seek legislation that would help them get paid in a timely manner. He said unionizing the workers isn’t his aim for the short term. “These poor people who do the home care,” Marvin said, “they are just abused to beat the band, as far as I’m concerned.”