Capital & Main: Careless: How Governor Brown Is Harming California’s Seniors and Disabled — and the People Who Care for Them

Illustration: Lalo Alcaraz

By Gary Cohn

January 22, 2014 in California Expose 

Andrea Vidales makes $9 an hour taking care of a blind Korean War veteran and an elderly couple in their Merced County homes. Under California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, she spends about 60 hours every week bathing her clients, preparing their meals, cleaning house, paying their bills, driving them to doctors and dealing with other aspects of their medical care. She was delighted, then, when the Obama administration, through the U.S. Department of Labor, announced new regulations last September requiring in-home caregivers to be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours a week.

Andrea Vidales with Juan Roybal

Her good fortune didn’t last long. On January 9, Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his proposed $155-billion budget for 2014-2015 at a press conference in Sacramento. Under the governor’s budget, Vidales and hundreds of thousands of other home health care workers would be prohibited from working more than eight hours a day, or 40 hours a week. Now, suddenly, the state’s home health care workers are not only facing the possibility of not receiving overtime, but of also losing the extra hours they’ve been accustomed to working.

The overtime prohibition would cover all IHSS caregivers. The IHSS program, which has operated for nearly four decades, is designed to allow seniors and people with disabilities to live in their homes rather than in more expensive institutions – whose per-patient costs typically run five times as much as in-home care. Under the program, about 360,000 home health care workers provide care to roughly 450,000 people as part of California’s Medi-Cal program. It is five times larger than the next largest program operated by any other state.

Brown’s provision is intended to save California from paying the overtime required under the new federal regulations. But home health care workers say the overtime prohibition would have a devastating impact on their incomes, and advocates for seniors and the disabled claim that care would be disrupted for some of the state’s most vulnerable people. The ensuing conflict between federal generosity and the pressures of a state budget have set in motion a classic example of good intentions producing unintended consequences.

“It’s really going to create chaos for recipients and for present caregivers,” says Gary Passmore, vice president of the Sacramento-based advocacy group Congress of California Seniors. He warns that the elderly and disabled who require care beyond 40 hours a week will be forced to rely on other caregivers with less familiarity with their special needs. “Ironically, the people who need the most hours [have] the highest needs,” he says. “They are the frailest and the most profoundly disabled.”

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One Response to “Capital & Main: Careless: How Governor Brown Is Harming California’s Seniors and Disabled — and the People Who Care for Them”
  1. ellen says:

    Let’s face the truth. If the developmentally disabled are kicked out of state institutions, then we see group homes run by health and human services and social services scrambling to provide basic medical and behavioral needs these consumers needs, and we’ve all seen how INEPT the people working in these agencies that are intended “to help” the disabled really are…….so that leaves us with the dilemma of HOW will we care for all these displaced state residential clients? WHERE will they go? WHO will take care of them? NOBODY is asking these questions….Clearly, IHSS is a lot CHEAPER and COST EFFECTIVE than placing someone in an out of home placement, so let’s quit the BS and stick with REALITY IHSS is a great program that saves tax payers money by allowing people who have severe disabilities or illness to STAY at home rather than end up in a costly out of home placement!!!! IHSS saves money!

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