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REPORT: North Carolina Home Care Workers Deserve Fair Pay

August 6, 2015

Improving the quality of home care jobs in North Carolina would result in better care for consumers and a higher overall level of economic stability throughout the state, a report shows.

Fair Pay for Quality Care in North Carolina,” released by the North Carolina Justice Center on July 28, uses information from the PHI State Data Center to show that inflation-adjusted wages for the two primary home care jobs have declined significantly over the last 10 years.

Personal care aides earned a median hourly wage of just $9.18 in 2014, while home health aides only made $9.03 an hour.

Both jobs are among the fastest-growing occupational categories in the state as demand for home care increases. But such low wages will fail to attract sufficient workers to the field of home care, the report’s author, Sabine Schoenbach, a policy analyst at the Workers’ Rights Project, argues.

Schoenbach also writes that low home care worker wages threaten the quality and affordability of home care in North Carolina.

“Insufficient wages translate into less consistent care and higher costs for providers, for the simple reason that low wages have long been understood to increase employee turnover — many workers just can’t afford to stay,” she writes.

The report quotes a Raleigh-based home care worker named Tiffany who says she earns just $9.50/hour as a home health care provider, and has had to take a second job to make ends meet.

“It’s hard to love your job and love taking care of people but be in such a precarious position,” Tiffany says.

Schoenbach concludes her report with a list of policy recommendations that would positively influence home care workers’ wages, including raising Medicaid reimbursement rates, supporting collective bargaining rights for workers, and raising the state minimum wage to $12/hour.

She also recommends that the state accept federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.

A recent PHI report shows that more than 44,000 North Carolina direct-care workers live in households earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, making them eligible for Medicaid if the state chose to expand the program. Of the 21 non-expansion states, only Texas has more residents who would be potentially eligible for Medicaid coverage.

— by Matthew Ozga

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