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Anemic Wages for Personal Care Assistants Threaten Virginia Seniors

March 7, 2008

Richmond, VA - Virginia home health caregivers are feeling a little queasy as the legislative session wraps up. That's because the Virginia General Assembly says it won't take up raises for the state's personal care assistants this year.

David Broder, executive director of the Virginia Association of Personal Care Assistants, says that right now the Medicaid payment for home health workers is $8.60 per hour in most of the state, and just over $11 per hour in Northern Virginia – with no paid time off or health insurance.

"The legislature has complete control over how much caregivers working under Medicaid make. We want them to be sure those caregivers get a living wage and get health care."

Broder adds that the lack of paid sick leave and health insurance can be as dangerous for clients as for their assistants.

"When your aide or your loved one's aide is forced to choose between taking a sick day and not getting paid, or coming in to give care when they're sick, that's a real dangerous choice."

Broder says the low wages make it hard for older Virginians to find and retain home health care assistants, sometimes forcing them out of independent living and into nursing homes. And that, he says, costs Virginia taxpayers far more than a living wage for personal care assistants would cost.

John Robinson/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - VA