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Maryland’s Home Care Aides Are Winning at the State House

By Jake McDonald (he/him) | July 9, 2024

This May, Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland signed into law two bills to strengthen the state’s home care aide workforce.

First, the Home Care Workers Rights Act is designed to ensure home care workers are properly classified as employees rather than independent contractors. Misclassifying home care workers as independent contractors can create a competitive advantage for employers, who can then charge rates below the industry norm while, in some cases, offering a higher paycheck for workers. However, independent contractors are responsible for paying directly for Social Security, income tax, and meeting other requirements which decreases their take-home wages and creates a reporting burden for workers. In addition, misclassified workers are excluded from a range of fundamental employment protections that employees enjoy.  The law addresses this issue by requiring that most of Maryland’s Medicaid home care programs may only reimburse for home care services if they are provided by an employee (and, therefore, entitled to an employee’s benefits and protections).

Second, the Home Care Workers Employment Act will require the state to collect and publish information on home care aides whose work is funded by the state’s Medicaid program, including the average, highest, and lowest wage rate each home care agency pays to these workers. As part of their advocacy on this bill, the Caring Across Maryland coalition secured an agreement from the state Department of Health to use this wage data to analyze how much the state should be paying home care agencies and how much the agencies should be paying home care workers in order to recruit and retain the workforce needed to ensure Marylanders have access to home care services.  It also means the state will be building off of new requirements for state data collection on home and community-based services that is mandated in the Biden’s Administration’s recent final rule, Ensuring Access to Medicaid Services.

David Rodwin, an attorney at the Public Justice Center who helped lead the advocacy effort for these two pieces of legislation, had this to say about their passage: “For state-funded public works projects, people usually agree that governments should make sure that workers’ rights are respected and that the wages are high enough for workers to support themselves and their families. Why don’t we apply that same philosophy to Medicaid-funded home care workers, whose labor is no less important? These two new laws help lay the groundwork to make publicly funded home care jobs the good jobs they must become if we want to solve the home care workforce crisis. There’s much more to do, but there’s real progress happening in Maryland.”

Loraine Arikat, Senior Policy Analyst with 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, a founding member of the Caring Across Maryland Coalition shares, “Our coalition is bringing together direct care workers, care recipients, state stakeholders, disability justice and health justice advocates to carve a path in Maryland that will bolster job quality, improve transparency, and increase access to care within long term care. Demand for home care services is rising steadily, so our state must prioritize recruitment and retention of home care workers to meet the moment.”

PHI is pleased to celebrate this progress and is grateful for the opportunity to support Caring Across Maryland’s work. The coalition plans to build on its success by moving policies forward that strengthen the direct care workforce and create a more caring healthcare system in Maryland.

Jake McDonald (he/him)
About The Author

Jake McDonald (he/him)

Senior State Policy Advocacy Specialist
As the Senior State Policy Advocacy Specialist, Jake McDonald improves job quality for direct care workers by deepening and expanding PHI’s state-based advocacy approach.

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