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Obama Highlights Home Health WorkersDecember 26, 2011
WASHINGTON, DC - A mid December White House blog and speech from President Obama cast a bright light on “home health” workers. In comments designed to support “fair pay for home care workers,” Obama recounted a day spent with a woman who cared for an elderly male amputee, helping the man with bathing, cooking food, and cleaning his apartment.
“As the home care business has changed over the years, the law hasn’t changed to keep up,” said Obama, who delivered remarks on new minimum wage/overtime protections for in-home care workers at a “We Can’t Wait” event at the White House. Specifically, Obama announced his support of a law to extend overtime pay protections and a guaranteed minimum wage to those who do this work.
“We are going to make sure that over a million men and women in one of the fastest-growing professions in the country don’t slip through the cracks,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that companies who do right by their workers aren’t undercut by companies who don’t. We’re going to do what’s fair, and what’s right.”
While acknowledging the pluses of highlighting the home helper role, Mike Hamilton, executive director of the Alabama Durable Medical Equipment Association, points out that these are not medical workers, and thus fill a different niche. “These are not nurses,” says Hamilton. “They are trained sitters who provide care, like bathing, that does not require medical skill.
“There is a huge and growing industry of franchised companies who provide non-skilled sitters that are private pay, not covered by insurance, including Home Instead and others,” he continues. “It is good to know that President Obama holds them in such high regard, and too bad he doesn’t realize that many of them couldn’t do their jobs without equipment and services provided by the HME industry. We should certainly do our best to make him aware of that fact at once, and help him understand the similarities of bids and minimum wages.”
“I find it interesting that the Obama Administration wants to make sure they do the right thing for home care workers and yet supports a program that will dismantle the very industry that makes home care possible,” adds Karyn Estrella, CAE, executive director of the New England Medical Equipment Dealers Association, New Bedford, Mass. “I hope the Administration and Congress does the right thing for the HME industry by replacing the fatally flawed competitive bidding program with the market pricing program.”
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