Is Home Care ‘Imploding’ in the Nation’s Capital?

Cases of fraud plague the home care industry. The recent extension of minimum wage and overtime protections to approximately 2 million home care workers across the country has sparked outcry from several states and pushback from different trade organizations.

Now, one home care aide is saying enough is enough.

Michael Thompson has been a home care provider in the Washington, D.C. area for 10 years. In that time period, he has observed and experienced several of the industry’s shortcomings firsthand, he said, and he has come to believe that the sector in D.C. specifically is “imploding.”

“A lack of oversight in the industry has set off a chain of problems for home care workers who want to deliver the best care possible,” Thompson wrote in The Afro-American Newspapers.

Namely, Thompson points to a situation last year in which 13 agencies—including the one he worked for—were suspended following an FBI investigation that revealed more than $80 million in Medicaid fraud. He said he and some of his coworkers continued to care for their patients during the shutdown but went without pay, and he lost his home and care as a result.

Thompson has observed further fraudulent behavior among some home care agencies funded by taxpayers that steal caregivers’ wages, prompting home care workers to file three class action lawsuits against D.C. agencies alleging $150 million in stolen wages.

“Some pay us below the legally required living wage and deny us paid sick leave or overtime,” he wrote.

Low wages, in particular, are a significant factor that weaken the home care workforce, according to Thompson.

“After nearly decade in the field, I’m paid $13.80 an hour,” Thompson wrote. “After covering rent, utilities, life insurance and work supplies, I have $0 left over. Too many home care providers are forced to leave the field because they can’t survive.”

Lack of communication regarding recertification is yet another issue faced by D.C. home care aides, Thompson said. The D.C. Board of Nursing has failed to re-certify about 60% of home care workers in the area. The responsibility then falls on the home care industry as a whole, which “often reports conflicting fees, processes or deadlines to its workforce,” he said.

With all this taken into consideration, Thompson argued that something needs to change—and soon. This would entail paying home care workers at least $15 an hour, bringing caregivers together to fight wage theft and gathering accurate information about recertification.

“Our city’s home care crisis is reaching a tipping point,” he wrote. “If providers, elected officials, employers and the community don’t work together to chart new direction, too many seniors won’t have access to the care they need and providers won’t be able to stay in the field and support their families. …The health of our seniors and the livelihoods of thousands of providers are at stake.”

Written by Kourtney Liepelt