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Post-Election: The Work Ahead

November 15, 2012

A message from Jodi Sturgeon, PHI President.

With the election season behind us, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on the work ahead. The re-election of President Obama provides a tremendous opportunity to work together to ensure quality jobs for direct-care workers and quality care for elders and people with disabilities. The election sent a clear message: the majority of Americans want to invest in our communities, to create jobs and shared prosperity by building a strong middle class, and to sustain the crucial safety-net programs that provide financial stability and peace of mind.

The Budget Deal

First on the agenda for advocates of a caring economy is the budget deal. To move the country forward, we need a balanced approach that includes raising new revenues while protecting critical social programs that support America’s middle class families. PHI will be fighting to protect Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, because these programs are crucial to our communities, and the most vulnerable among us. Without these programs, families cannot manage the costs of caring — for elders; people with disabilities; those who face acute, costly illnesses; or those living with chronic conditions.

Jobs

Our goal in the next four years is to increase investment in care jobs: to improve wages, training, and career paths in order to make these “good” jobs that support those in need and grow our economy. Expanding public investment in this area will help resolve two challenges facing our nation: caring for our rapidly aging population and creating millions of jobs. Demand for direct-care is at an all-time high, with home care providing the fastest-growing occupations in the country. Yet these jobs will never be created if funding for these services is cut, or if we continue to show disdain (through poor wages and training) for those who choose this work.

Companionship Exemption

Improving the quality of direct-care jobs requires a change in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In December 2011, President Obama announced that his administration was revising FLSA to include home care workers under its basic protections, finally ensuring minimum wage and overtime protections for home health and personal care aides. With 26,000 comments submitted, 80 percent in favor of the administration’s proposal, the revised rule should be finalized immediately. Home care workers, whose real wages have not even kept up with inflation in the last decade, cannot afford to wait for these basic labor protections.

Affordable Care Act

One of PHI’s main priorities is to ensure the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the expansion of Medicaid coverage in all 50 states. The ACA includes numerous provisions that are crucial to our “quality care through quality jobs” agenda.

First and foremost, the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid — now optional for the states — will expand health coverage to nearly 1 million direct-care workers. Health care coverage is fundamental to improving direct-care jobs and stabilizing the workforce.

Medicaid expansion is also crucial to America’s middle class, providing a safety net for families when the costs of long-term care have depleted lifetime savings. With the suspension of implementation of the CLASS Act, the voluntary public insurance program that was originally included in the ACA, we still need to find a solution that will help all Americans afford long-term care and address a major gap in ensuring the economic security of our people.

Finally, the ACA included several less well-known programs that are already expanding home and community-based services and exploring how to strengthen the personal care aide workforce. PHI urges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Personal Care Attendants Workforce Advisory Panel, which is charged with advising the HHS Secretary and Congress on a range of policies affecting this workforce, now the fastest-growing in the country.

PHI will be joining with allies across the country to fight for these priorities. If you would like to help move this agenda forward, set up an account at the PHI home page and please sign up for the PHI Action Alert.

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