Scathing report leads to bills raising nursing home wages

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Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced legislation to address nursing home wages, following a report released last week that found 52% of the state's nursing home workforce can't support their families with what they earn.

Bills introduced by state Sen. Daylin Leach (D) and state Rep. Ed Gainey (D) would create a Living Wage Certification program for nursing homes. The facilities would have to pay base wages of $15 per hour, and provide public information for the minimum wage rates facilities pay. Facilities would also receive penalties for any income-based, state-funded public assistance received by their employees.

The proposed legislation accompanies a report released November 5 by the Keystone Research Center, which found one in six Pennsylvania nursing home workers rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

Last week's report builds on findings of a report released in April, which found the average wage for nursing assistants is $13.01 per hour, making for annual earnings of just over $27,000 per year. Housekeeping and dietary workers earned an average of $10 to $11 per hour, or $21,000 to $23,000 annually.

The Keystone studies failed to take into account the decreasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for the state's nursing facilities, W. Russell McDaid, president and chief operating officer of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, told the Philadelphia Business Journal. He cited a study by long-term care consulting firm Eljay LLC, which found the state's reimbursement rates to be some of the lowest in the country.

“Pennsylvania's Medicaid program doesn't come close to covering the real cost of care," McDaid said. “The suggestions made in the report are not achievable at Pennsylvania's current Medicaid funding levels."