Advocates Rally at Capitol for More Provider Pay
Tuesday, April 18, 2023
With key deadlines approaching at the Iowa statehouse, advocates are calling on lawmakers to provide better wages for direct service professionals, the health care workers who support people with disabilities in the community.
At an average of about $14 an hour, the pay is poor and the work notoriously challenging, which makes it hard for providers to attract and retain workers in the field.
Mona Kenyon, CEO of Iowa City-based Systems Unlimited, a health care provider, they are 98% Medicaid funded, so companies like hers are calling on the state for higher reimbursement rates.
"People have other opportunities," Kenyon acknowledged. "We don't get the applications. We don't keep staff. It's a constant revolving door. So we're pushing to draw awareness and to say this is a real problem. "
Currently, 96% of provider agencies in Iowa have vacancies for direct service professionals.
Kenyon pointed out companies like hers often compete for workers with fast food restaurants because of the low pay, but noted the work providers do is valuable for people with disabilities and helps them stay in their homes.
"It can range depending on the needs," Kenyon explained. "People need assistance with personal care, with bathing, getting ready for their day, getting ready to go to work. Other people need help with grocery shopping, balancing their checkbook. So, it really does range, but without the direct support professionals, services cannot be provided."
To attract and retain more direct service professionals, Iowa's lawmakers are considering House File 264, which would eliminate the state income tax for in-home health care providers, saving them up to $1,300 a year.
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