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NC Caregiver Wages Fall: Impact on Aging Population

With North Carolina's aging population expected to increase over the next several decades, a report from the North Carolina Justice Center underlines the importance of living wages for caregivers. Photo credit: Ladyheart/Morguefile.
With North Carolina's aging population expected to increase over the next several decades, a report from the North Carolina Justice Center underlines the importance of living wages for caregivers. Photo credit: Ladyheart/Morguefile.
August 4, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. – The hourly amount Medicaid is willing to reimburse for caregiver support of older North Carolinians, or others in need, has decreased by almost $2 since state cuts were enacted in 2014. As a result, North Carolina caregivers are now paid $4 an hour less than the national average.

According to Allan Freyer, director of the Workers' Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, that has the potential to impact the state's growing population of those who need care.

"It also ultimately degrades the quality of care," he says. "If you have someone who is trying to pick up hours at three different jobs, they're just not going to be able to provide the stability of scheduling with the senior they're caring for that the senior really needs."

According to a report released by the North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina's over-65 population is projected to more than double by 2050. The median wage for caregivers is less than $10 per hour, which is $5 less than the state's overall median wage.

Based on the report's analysis, low wages can increase worker turnover and interrupt the continuity of care for consumers. Aside from the impact on those receiving care, it can also impact the caregiver's reliance on public assistance programs to make ends meet.

"You're either paying for it on the front end with increased wages, or you're paying on the back end with increased public assistance," says Freyer. "People in America need to be able to have enough money to put food on the table and pay their rent. If their wages aren't doing that, then they're going to have to rely on public assistance."

Unlike North Carolina, states like Montana and Maine have an automatic update mechanism to Medicaid reimbursements to ensure rates remain competitive to keep caregivers employed and paid a living wage.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC