State Audit Finds Nursing Homes Failed to Provide Pay Hikes
An ongoing state audit has found that 49 out of 160 California nursing homes have "failed to pass along" state-mandated pay increases to workers, the Sacramento Bee reports (Teichert, Sacramento Bee, 2/2). The pay raises were part of a 1999 nursing home reform package that called for state nursing homes workers' wages to be raised by 5% (California Health Line, 9/9/99). Pay raises were intended to "attract and keep more highly qualified caseworkers and thereby improve the quality of care," the Bee reports. The state appropriated $35 million for wage hikes, but audits found that nursing homes had not passed on more than $1.6 million of that amount to employees, and may have spent the money on other nursing home expenses. Diana Ducay, deputy director of audits and investigations for the Department of Health Services, estimates that "as many as" 30% of the state's 1,356 homes may not have provided the pay hikes. Audits are still under way, but Ducay reported that 30 homes thus far have "admitted" not passing on a total of $381,471 in raises. Ducay warned that raises not paid to workers "will be recouped by the state along with a 10% penalty."
Nursing home workers and consumers testified Wednesday at an Assembly oversight hearing chaired by state Assembly member Gil Cedillo (D). Beth Capell of Service Employees International Union said that wage increases have been "uneven" and that nursing homes are "dangerously understaffed." Representatives of the Congress of California Seniors, the National Senior Citizens Law Center and the AARP agreed that the pay raises are "needed to improve staffing." Certified nurse assistant Perla Jackson, who earns $6.50 per hour, said, "We don't see the money. The patients don't see the money. Where is the money? It's not fair to the patient, and it's not fair to us."
The California Association of Health Facilities, which represents nursing home owners, "criticized" the audit methodology. Darryl Nixon, the association's director of reimbursement and fiscal programs, said the group's own review found that nursing homes paid "much more in raises" than the state audit reported. Nixon also called the legislation appropriating the wages "confusing," saying it only included "six sentences" of explanation, with "clarifying instructions" not released until "months later." Ducay said state officials are "working with nursing home owners who dispute the audit findings" or who want to provide the pay raises retroactively to workers. "We're trying to do our best with the ultimate goal in all of this that the staff receive the money," Ducay said (Sacramento Bee, 2/2).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.