Promise of COVID-19 Pay Raise for Front-Line Workers Leaves Home Care Providers Searching for Answers

Last week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in a press conference that some in-home care workers would be getting a $2-per-hour pay raise through June.

Yet the proclamation has brought on more confusion than it has celebration. Without clarification on who exactly would benefit from the state-implemented raise, caregivers and agencies are unsure over whether they’d be benefitting.

“It’s not clear. All we have at this point is the governor saying in a press conference that long-term care and behavioral health caregivers will receive a $2-per-hour pay increase,” Barry Cargill, the executive director of the Michigan HomeCare & Hospice Association (MHHA), told Home Health Care News.

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If the raise were to be implemented via the state Medicaid program, it would cover a fairly narrow portion of the caregiver population, Cargill said.

In the April 22 address, Gov. Whitmer, a Democrat, said that the pay raise extends to direct care workers providing in-home behavioral and long-term care services to children and adults funded by Medicaid.

The MHHA reached out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), but was not given further specifics on the pay increase. The raise, if just for workers involved in Medicaid services, would mean a greater reimbursement rate for those providers.

But an unclear statement promising a raise to certain workers is just not valuable, Cargill said.

“You make such a statement with no detail, and [then] it obviously gets picked up by the media,” Cargill said. “But then to not be able to provide any detail — that’s a little bit troubling, and it puts home care agencies in a tough spot.”

The fear is that agencies across the state will be left in the dark, not able to inform their workers as to whether or not they’ll be getting an increase for working on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

MHHA does agree that a raise is in order, however — even past June.

“It’s been nine years since pay has increased for home health Medicaid providers, so the increase is a long time coming,” Cargill said. “It’s very difficult for an agency and a caregiver to be adequately compensated and it is important that there be an increase, but it has to come with adequate communication.”

On average, non-certified caregivers in Michigan earn $12.13 per hour, while certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and home health aides (HHAs) earn $13.23, according to data from a 2020 myCNAjobs report.

“It may be that the governor is applying this to Medicaid reimbursement for Medicaid caregivers, but that’s a very small portion of the overall caregiver [population],” Cargill said. “We’ve got all of the other different payers … so we really do need to have that clarity.”

When reached for comment on Tuesday, the governor’s office did not have any updates to provide.

“It is our duty as Michiganders to ensure these front-line heroes have the financial support they need to continue doing their critical work while caring for themselves and their families,” Whitmer said during last week’s press conference.

For now, Michigan agencies and caregivers will have to wait and see what front-line work will be financially rewarded.

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