Guest:  Todd Vaarwerk

Topic:  Challenges of recruiting home care aides

Duration:  5:25

Published:  July 29, 2021

Host:  Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Todd Vaarwerk, Chief Policy Officer of WNYIL and I'm your host Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program, Todd.

Guest:  Always good to be here.

Host:  You're here because you're our expert on things in advocacy and politics and whatnot. And there's something going on which is complicating provision of Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Services (CDPAS). But first, if you could explain to our listeners who might not know just what that is.

Guest:  Well, CDPAS is a service allowed by Medicaid in New York so that you can hire your own community care providers, rather than have them assigned by an agency which we would call traditional. But the problem that we're talking about covers both ways that aide service is provided, so very important that we note the difference between consumer directed and traditional aid service, which is that there's an agency in the middle that actually does more than just being the employer of record, traditional actually does the hiring and scheduling and supervision of the aides were in consumer directed you do.

Host:  Which gives the consumer a lot more control and lets the home care aide know who the boss is.

Guest:  Correct, but the problem is, regardless of which way that you get your aide service, there is a crisis in hiring personal care aides, both on the consumer side for those people that are hiring to get their own services met, and on the agency side who are trying to hire aides to get services met for the people they have contracts for. And that is based on the disparity in wages between the home health sector and the fast food sector. On July 1, the statewide wage board setting for fast food increased to $15 an hour. Personal care aide wages are set by a Medicaid rate, which uses as its baseline or sorry its maximum, let's be clear about that. Its maximum of minimum wage, which is $12.50 an hour. So PCAs are making $12.50 an hour, fast food workers are making $15 an hour. So as a result, we have a wage disparity that creates a vacuum, because people are getting out of doing aide work, so that they can make more money in fast food, and why wouldn't you. Everyone needs to support a family, right.

Host:  Indeed.

Guest:  The problem is, without aides to be providing the services into the community, people are going to be not able to get services in the community and end up in hospitals and nursing homes, which as we all know, is vastly more expensive for the Medicaid dollar estimated at about $124,000 per person per year. So, it's really important as independent living advocates that we look at fixing this disparity, which is the campaign they call Fair Pay for Home Care.

Host:  All right, well, we've got about a minute left in the show I'm sure that our listeners are saying, surely there's something that I can do to help with this effort.

Guest:  There is absolutely something they can do. Caring Majority, which is a group of organizations that are working on this issue, created a website referred to as I Can't Find, where you can identify your stories in having difficulty finding aide services. Now this is whether you work for a traditional agency, or whether you get consumer directed. Right. Okay, Caring Majority doesn't care. We want to hear your stories because the important part of leveraging a potential wage increase is for people to know how severe the problem is, so I wholeheartedly recommend that if this issue is one that you care about, because you use services because a family member use services, go to I Can't Find and tell your story.

Host:  How can people reach you to get more information Todd?

Guest:  That would be 716-836-0822 extension 101.

Host:  Thanks for being with us.

Guest:  It's always a pleasure.

Host: You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today has been Todd Vaarwerk, Chief Policy Officer of WNYIL, and I've been your host, Ernie Churchwell.