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Oregon Lawmaker Proposes New Standards for State Home Care Program

May 14, 2015

Oregon State Rep. Mike McLane (R) introduced legislation to require the Oregon Home Care Commission (OHCC) to be subject to the same standards as private home care agencies.

The OHCC is the public authority charged with ensuring quality home care for Medicaid enrollees. The Commission provides an online matching service registry to assist consumers enrolled in consumer-directed programs with hiring workers and also manages their worker payroll. Aside from payroll, self-directing consumers handle all other management functions — including initial training. Some consumers prefer this model because it gives them greater independence and control over their care than the agency model.

The bill (HB 3145) would amend current law so OHCC standards “must include, at a minimum” the same standards as private home care agencies. Current regulations mandate that OHCC standards be compatible with private standards “to the greatest extent practicable.”

The new Home Care Choice Program will open the OHCC matching service registry to private-pay consumers starting on January 1, 2016. Proponents of this legislation claim this new program allows the state to compete with private home care agencies without being subject to the same regulations — such as worker training requirements.

The Service Employees International Union Local 503 sees the Home Care Choice Program as a way for consumers to self-direct services and not as a way for the state to compete with home care agencies. “The goal of this was never to be in competition… It was really to fill a different kind of need in our community,” Melissa Unger, political director for SEIU Local 503, is quoted as saying in The Lund Report.

If this bill passes, the OHCC would be required to take on the same responsibilities as a licensed home care agency. These include:

  • offering mandatory six hours of continuing education to all OHCC workers;
  • hiring nurses or contracting with nursing agencies to provide medication assessments every 90 days for clients;
  • taking over all case management functions; and
  • expanding OHCC presence statewide or contracting with other entities in order to maintain geographic proximity to clients to perform these functions.

The legislation is currently pending in the Oregon Joint Committee on Ways and Means while lawmakers await a cost estimate of these additional services from the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the PHI State Data Center, there are nearly 30,000 personal care assistants in the state of Oregon. About a third of those workers are employed under the OHCC. 

For more information on training for personal care aides in Oregon, visit the PHI Personal Care Aide Training Requirements page.

— by Stephen Campbell, PHI Policy Research Assistant

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