Calif. Bill Seeking Increased Oversight of Caregivers Sparks Debate
Unions and advocates for the elderly are pushing for the passage of a California bill (AB 1217) that would require home care agencies to be licensed and caregivers to be listed in an online database, the New York Times' "New Old Age Blog" reports.
However, home care agencies strongly oppose the measure.
Home care includes nonmedical services for elderly individuals, including assistance when using the bathroom, dressing, bathing and other basic tasks, according to the Times.
A 2012 study by Northwestern University researchers found that few home care agencies in California performed comprehensive background checks on their workers. In addition, few groups offered reliable training or supervision of such workers.
Similarly, a 2011 study from the state Senate's Office of Oversight and Outcomes found a lack of screening for caregivers.
Details of AB 1217
The bill would require home care agencies to:
- Obtain a state license by July 1, 2014, or pay a $900 fine per day;
- Conduct background checks on workers; and
- Assess workers' performance annually and supervise their activities every 90 days.
The legislation would require caregivers to:
- Obtain certification after undergoing a background check;
- Get tested for tuberculosis; and
- Attend five hours of basic training.
Under AB 1217, caregivers' names and locations would be listed in an online state registry.
The measure -- which already passed the Assembly -- cleared the state Senate's appropriations panel last week. It is slated for a Senate floor vote this week.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed a similar bill, saying that such requirements could have a negative effect on small businesses in the state.
Comments From Supporters
Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) -- the bill's sponsor -- said, "It's just not right that I can check the license status of an air-conditioning repairman but I can't do so for someone coming into my home to care for a loved one."
Gary Passmore -- vice president of the Congress of California Seniors -- said that his group supports the bill and that the state "need[s] to make home care more of a profession."
Dean Chalios -- president of the California Association for Health Services at Home -- said that home care agencies should be responsible for ensuring workers' competency and that such efforts should be voluntary.
Kathy Janz -- executive director of Matched CareGivers, a home care agency -- said, "What this [legislation] is really all about is trying to unionize home care workers in California."
In a statement, Kevin Smith -- director of operations at the Home Care Association of America -- said that imposing certification requirements could reduce the number of home care workers and make it more difficult for elderly U.S. residents to find a caregiver.
However, Laphonza Butler -- president of United Long-Term Care Workers, under the Service Employees International Union -- questioned why home care agencies would hesitate to embrace the changes if they already "accept responsibility for training workers and maintaining standards."
Meanwhile, many home care agencies oppose the creation of a caregiver database (Graham, "New Old Age Blog," New York Times, 8/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.