High Cost of Home Health Care May Force Counties To Reduce Funds for Other Services
County administrators statewide have raised concerns that they may have to reduce funds for a number of services to help offset home health care costs, which have increased in recent years because of larger caseloads and higher wages for home health care workers, the Contra Costa Times reports. In the past, the workers -- who provide home health care for elderly and disabled patients under the In-Home Supportive Services program, which is administered by counties and funded with a combination of county, state and federal funds -- had received minimum wage. However, in recent years, many home health care workers have joined the Service Employees International Union and the United Domestic Workers, which have negotiated wage increases from $5.75 per hour to $9.50 per hour in most urban counties, according to the California State Association of Counties. The federal and state governments cover some of the cost of the increased wages for home health care workers, but according to the Times, "those payments fall far short, leaving counties to make up the difference." Over the past five years, home health care costs for counties have increased from $328 million to $684 million, and the costs will likely continue to rise as the state population ages, according to the California Policy Research Center at the University of California-Berkeley. "It's the perfect storm in terms of costs," Frank Mecca, executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California, said, adding, "The growth of IHSS is crowding out funding that would otherwise go to other programs." Kelly Brooks, an analyst for CSAC said, "Both the health and the mental health folks are biting their fingernails and waiting for the elephant in the closet to swallow them" (Felsenfeld, Contra Costa Times, 11/4).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.