New York’s Wage Parity Law
In 2011, as New York State was restructuring its long-term care delivery system through “Medicaid Redesign” (i.e., enrolling older adults and people with disabilities in need of Medicaid-funded long-term care into managed care plans), PHI began drawing attention to the wage and benefits differential between personal care aides and home health aides. In New York, home health aides are certified to perform more care tasks than personal care aides, must undergo a longer training period, and are certified to assist clients whose services are paid for by Medicare. Yet for years, the personal care aide workforce in New York City earned higher wages than home health aides working in other parts of the state. This was due to earlier unionization and the fact that because their services were paid for by New York City, the wages of personal care aides were in accordance with the living wage laws in NYC, Long Island, and Westchester County.
It became clear that wage parity would be necessary. Establishing a consistent wage floor with benefits—and thus equalizing compensation levels for these two workforces—would better allow workers to make ends meet and promote retention in an occupation with typically high turnover.
PHI advocated for this reform for years, issuing research and analysis on its importance and working with policy leaders across the spectrum. In 2011, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted the Wage Parity Law, improving compensation of New York’s home care workers. PHI has worked with its New York City home care system and its state policy partners to inform the law’s implementation and to ensure that managed care plans have sufficient funding to carry out the mandate. Additionally, we have issued regular analysis on the interplay between higher wages and eligibility for public benefits, which can inadvertently lead to “benefit cliffs” and “benefit plateaus” where low-income workers don’t always see higher incomes from working more hours.