Laura Hershey: Writer, Poet, Activist, Consultant Rotating Header Image

Gas Prices and Home Care

I’ve been working with a health care union to try to improve compensation for home care workers, and to enable such workers to organize themselves to have a voice in public policymaking. I’m concerned that people who are doing such important jobs, providing services that are essential to the well-being and independence of disabled and older people, earn such low pay and receive few or no benefits. They support our health, and they often cannot get health care for themselves or their children.

Now rising gas prices are putting even more pressure on home care workers, and causing reductions in needed services. According to an article in Saturday’s New York Times, a recent survey by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice concluded that home health and hospice workers drove 4.8 billion miles in 2006 to serve 12 million clients. These low-paid workers are not usually reimbursed for mileage.

I’ve known home health aides who had to borrow money just to buy enough fuel to get to work. Now that problem is growing, nationwide.

Not only do high gas prices hurt workers; this phenomenon also further escalates our country’s institutional bias. Nursing facilities gain yet another competitive advantage over home care: Facilities can offer employees eight-hour shifts in one location, in contrast to the multiple trips that may be involved in home care workers’ schedules.

State and federal Medicaid officials should recognize this, and level the playing field by factoring travel costs into reimbursement rates.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.