Pay rule en­force­ment de­layed

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Vir­gil Dick­son

De­fy­ing pres­sure from business groups, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is mov­ing for­ward with a rule re­quir­ing that the na­tion’s es­ti­mated 2 mil­lion home health work­ers be paid at least the fed­eral min­i­mum wage as well as over­time.

How­ever, the U.S. La­bor Depart­ment an­nounced last week that the rule, ef­fec­tive Jan. 1, won’t be en­forced un­til June 30. For the six months fol­low­ing the en­force­ment dead­line, the depart­ment said it would use its dis­cre­tion on whether to bring en­force­ment ac­tions, con­sid­er­ing good-faith ef­forts by the states and home-care op­er­a­tors to com­ply with the pay rule.

For decades, home health work­ers have been ex­empted from fed­eral pay rules. Many are older women who work long hours with­out ben­e­fits or over­time pay. Un­der the rule pro­posed last year, those work­ers must be paid the fed­eral min­i­mum wage of $7.25 an hour, and time and a half when they work more than 40 hours a week.

State of­fi­cials and home health op­er­a­tors re­peat­edly have called for de­lay­ing or scut­tling the rule, warn­ing that it will make home care un­af­ford­able for many fam­i­lies and push dis­abled peo­ple into nurs­ing homes. The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Home Care & Hospice has filed le­gal ac­tion to block the rule.

Or­ga­nized la­bor was crit­i­cal of the de­lay, though pleased the rule was not thrown out. “Two mil­lion work­ers will con­tinue to be shut out of the most ba­sic fed­eral wage pro­tec­tions,” a num­ber of la­bor groups wrote to La­bor Sec­re­tary Thomas Perez.

Op­pos­ing the rule, about two dozen con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans wrote to Perez to warn that state Med­i­caid pro­grams haven’t had enough time or guid­ance to im­ple­ment the rule. They said it would “sig­nif­i­cantly dis­rupt non­med­i­cal, in-home per­sonal-care ser­vices for se­niors and in­di­vid­u­als with dis­abil­i­ties.”

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