Home-health workers losing ground on wages, benefits, even as their ranks increase

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The wages and benefits for the direct-care workforce in long-term care “continue to be woefully inadequate,” according to a new Fact Sheet analysis from home-health worker advocacy group PHI.

A large majority of the direct-care workforce referred to works in a home- and community-based setting, rather than a nursing home or other facility. But officials note that the effects, labor implications and competition among workers, inevitably overlap. By 2018, home- and community-based health workers will outnumber health workers in nursing homes and other facilities by two-to-one, according to PHI.

The direct-care workforce is among the fastest growing in the nation, according to the worker advocacy group, which predicts the field to increase from 3.2 million workers in 2008 to 4.3 million in 2018. Despite the obvious demand for these jobs, benefits and wages have remained stagnant, and even been reduced in some instances. Roughly 45% of direct-care workers live in households earning below 200% of the federal poverty level, researchers found. Over the last nine years, the median hourly wage for home-health aides has fallen to below $8 per hour, according to PHI.

PHI estimates that as many as 900,000 of these direct-care workers had no health coverage in 2009, and that the percentage of those receiving employer-sponsored healthcare fell from 53% in 2008 to 47% in 2009.