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Leading National Expert Calls for Federal Investment in Paid Caregivers

March 21, 2017

NEW YORK — Today PHI released its federal policy priorities for 2017, calling on the Trump administration and Congress to strengthen the direct care workforce—nearly 5 million home care workers and nursing assistants—by protecting Medicaid, improving training and wages, and enacting reforms that would promote recruitment and retention in a workforce facing a severe shortage. PHI is a national research and consulting organization widely considered the leading expert on the direct care workforce.

"Paid caregivers are key to economic development in our communities, but we must improve these jobs to ensure they offer stable employment for jobseekers and reliable care for clients," said Jodi M. Sturgeon, president of PHI. "A federal investment in this workforce will go a long way to lift up families on both sides of the care divide.”

The new report—Federal Policy Priorities: Strengthening the Direct Care Workforce—recommends policy changes across five areas: wages and benefits, training and advanced roles, data collection and quality, expanding access and cultural competence, and family caregivers. A few highlights include:

  • Protect expanded Medicaid benefits, which allows direct care workers to obtain health coverage and expands access to long-term services and support among low-income Americans
  • Improve training standards, competency requirements, and programmatic interventions so that older people and people with disabilities can receive the skilled support they need and prefer; and
  • Collect ongoing, reliable data on this workforce to effectively monitor this workforce, inform public policy and workforce initiatives, and promote the highest quality of care.

Three current federal debates—repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the future of Medicaid, and immigration reform—directly impact this low-income workforce, which is characterized by high numbers of immigrants and workers whose health coverage improved under the ACA. Roughly 500,000 direct care workers gained health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, according to recently released research from PHI. PHI has also highlighted a growing workforce shortage, largely in the rural U.S.

"Around the country, but especially in rural America, we are witnessing severe workforce shortages in paid caregivers—a problem that will only worsen unless we improve the quality of these jobs with better wages, training, and career opportunities," said Robert Espinoza, vice president of policy at PHI.

This report was released at the “Aging in America” conference in Chicago hosted by the American Society on Aging—the largest multidisciplinary conference on aging in the United States.

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