Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate

Photo: Steve Schweitzer

California’s elected officials have an uncanny way of legislating jobs out of existence. The state’s unemployment rate is exceeded only by the state of Michigan thanks largely to oppressive regulation and the resulting increased costs to businesses.

Now two bills under consideration by the California State Legislature would impose new regulations on the non-medical services industry, threatening the ability of small businesses to provide affordable home care services.

Senate Bill 411, Homecare Licensure and Certification, will be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  Due for a vote later this month, it is attempting to certify non-medical, home care aides in a statewide database. It potentially violates their rights to confidentiality, a standard which employers must strictly uphold or risk legal liability for violations.

Additionally, SB 411 proposes the regulation of non-medical agencies which would be housed under the medically-oriented Department of Public Health.  Accreditation would simultaneously be required in addition to licensure, making it impossible for small businesses to afford.  If passed, it would take effect in 2012.

Also due for a vote this month, Assembly Bill 889, the “Domestic Workers Bill of Rights,” would eliminate the State’s Companionship Exemption if passed. This is the long-held labor code governing non-medical home care agencies which provide no medical services and are custodial in nature.  The loss of this exemption would be disastrous to small businesses currently providing cost-effective services and solutions on behalf of seniors and disabled persons wishing to remain in their own homes. If enacted, this bill is expected to take effect in 2012.

California isn’t alone. Other states including Florida, Illinois and New York are also moving forward with legislation to regulate this growing industry. States are now encouraged through incentives in national healthcare reform legislation passed in 2010 to develop programs to regulate the home care industry.

 

Maria Maples and AYHF caregiver Naedine Austin. Photo: Steve Schweitzer.

It is likely that the authors of this repressive legislation know very little about the home care industry and specifically the non-medical services community. They are attempting to control and impose unnecessary layers of regulations for a specific segment of home care. In California, home care is already vetted and self-regulated either by certification through the California Association for Health Services at Home (CAHSAH), or a variety of accreditation programs.

New laws may lead consumers to think all home care workers are subject to these rules. Not true. The new laws do not apply to home care workers hired privately. Unless the family conducts its own background checks and provides its own trained supervision (both of which are highly unlikely), seniors and disabled adults are at the mercy of caregivers who may have criminal records and may not have the training necessary to provide high quality care. These are often cases of financial or even physical elder abuse waiting to happen.

It is a laudable goal to insure that safe, high quality care is provided for people who need it. But unnecessary regulations will only increase the burden on reputable providers, while home care workers hired privately present a serious risk.  Consumers must make certain they seek home care from an accredited agency that conducts background checks and supervises their employees. We strongly recommend against accessing any care which is not vetted.

It must be pointed out that California’s proposed regulations do not appear to address the unmentioned carve outs for other non-medical providers left out of the bills. Examples include child care, some after school programs, respite care for persons with disabilities, and the like which do not seem to exist nor mentioned.

If these regulations pass, we can anticipate the rise of the silent, underground economy of undocumented workers to fill in the gaps, increasing the potential for fraud and abuse as well as I-9 and other labor-related violations.

With this clear attack on the fastest growing segment of the home care continuum, non-medical home care, sometimes referred to as private duty, one would question who would stand to gain from the demise of our small businesses?  What are the benefits if caregivers lose their jobs, and seniors and disabled are placed in institutional care due to losing their in-home care?

From a private industry standpoint, these regulations are contrary and in conflict with free enterprise, free competition, and the American Way. Pending legislation in California must be defeated, and similar legislation in other states must meet the same fate.

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

NEXT WEEK: Labor Law Changes Could Force Mom Out of Her Own Home

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