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Maine Lawmakers Propose Home Care Worker Wage Boost Through Medicaid

May 21, 2015

Two Maine lawmakers have proposed bills that would raise home care workers’ wages by authorizing an increase to Medicaid reimbursement rates.

“We need to pay people more than Wal-Mart to attract and keep the employees who do this important, valuable work,” said Maine House Speaker Mark Eves (D), the author of one of the bills.

Currently, MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, offers reimbursement rates of $15/hour for home health aide and personal support services.

Eves’s bill, H.P. 920 (pdf), calls for the rate to be raised to $25/hour, a 66 percent increase. The bill requires that at least 85 percent of the increase “must be used for wages and employee benefits including health care, mileage reimbursement, training costs and other benefits.”

The other bill, H.P. 605 (pdf), introduced by State Rep. Ellie Espling (R), also calls for a 66 percent increase to reimbursement rates for home care. Additionally, it would boost the reimbursement rates for registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, and independent registered nurse services by 33 percent.

The bills, currently before the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services, are expected to be combined “in a move of bipartisan cooperation,” the Portland Press Herald reported in a May 18 article.

The Press Herald further reported that the bills, if enacted, could raise home care workers’ wages to as high as $15/hour, at an annual cost to taxpayers of roughly $9 million.

The Press Herald article quotes home care worker Adelaide Manirakiza, an immigrant from Burundi, who says she is concerned about her ability to continue working a job she loves while making so little money.

“I worry about [consumers] like they’re my mother or grandmother,” she told the paper.

“I have a big heart. I care about people,” she continued. “But this job doesn’t pay enough.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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