Lawmakers Want Federal Rules To Cover Home Health Care Workers And End-Of-Life Care

Lawmakers want federal rules to cover home health care workers while Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., plans to introduce legislation in Congress today to better educate the public on end-of-life care.

The Associated Press reports that "a group of Democratic senators on Thursday urged the Labor Department to reverse a Bush administration policy by extending federal wage and hour laws to home health care workers. Most domestic workers are covered by laws governing minimum wage and overtime pay, but home workers that care for the elderly and disabled have long been considered exempt. The 15 lawmakers — led by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin — say the growing number of full-time home care workers serving an aging population deserve the same workplace rights as other employees." The AP notes that Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1974 to cover household workers, but exempted baby sitters and companions for the ill or elderly, and that the Supreme Court upheld the Labor Department's interpretation of the law to exclude home care workers two years later: "At her confirmation hearing earlier this year, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis indicated a willingness to consider rules that would expand the law to all home care workers. But the agency has not yet issued any notice of proposed rules on the issue."

"The number of full-time home care workers has surged with the growing number of retirees and more people are deciding to have long-term care in their homes instead of institutions. Health services companies that provide home care workers have opposed any expansion of hour and wage rules to their employees, arguing that it would drive up costs for elderly clients who can ill afford it. Unions representing home care workers have been pushing for changes in the law to cover those employees. Many states already have minimum wage and overtime laws that apply to home health care workers" (Hananel, 6/11).

Meanwhile, the Virginian-Pilot reports that "despite criticism he's trying to curtail care for the sick and elderly, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., plans to introduce legislation in Congress today to better educate the public on end-of-life care."

"Warner's Senior Navigation and Planning Act of 2009 would provide for better education on living wills, counseling for dying patients and respite care for their families through that benefit.” It would also expand Medicare's hospice benefits for patients with a life expectancy of six months or less to those expected to die within 18 months....The bill also would require doctors, beginning in 2014, to offer certain Medicare patients, such as those with end-stage cancer, renal disease and congestive heart failure, information about advance directives and other planning tools. Doctors who failed to provide the information would not receive Medicare reimbursements. The proposal provides financial incentives for hospitals and skilled nursing centers to have accredited palliative care programs, which focus on relief of pain and maintaining quality of life. Warner said he wanted to submit the legislation at this time because Congress is considering health-care reform. He'd like to see some of the ideas incorporated into that legislation"(Simpson, 6/12).






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