High court to con­sider hear­ing case on home care worker wages

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Lisa Schencker

The U.S. Supreme Court could soon de­cide whether it will hear a case over a new federal rule that re­quires home health­care agen­cies to pay higher wages to many work­ers.

In­dus­try groups asked the high court to take up the case af­ter a federal ap­peals court in Au­gust up­held the new rule, which re­quires home health­care agen­cies to pay min­i­mum wage and over­time to more work­ers and com­pen­sate them for time they spend trav­el­ing be­tween pa­tients.

U.S. Chief Jus­tice John Roberts in Oc­to­ber re­fused the in­dus­try’s re­quest to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of the lower court’s rul­ing. Since that rul­ing be­came ef­fec­tive, many home health­care agen­cies say they have had to cut hours and resched­ule em­ploy­ees to avoid pay­ing over­time and travel time— ex­penses they say they can’t af­ford.

Karen Kahn, a spokes­woman for the Para­pro­fes­sional Health­care In­sti­tute, said that while it might take time for every­one to ad­just, the higher wages will ul­ti­mately help at­tract needed work­ers.

The in­sti­tute, which rep­re­sents work­ers, doesn’t be­lieve the Supreme Court should hear the case. In­dus­try groups, how­ever, say the jus­tices should con­sider the mat­ter be­cause of its enor­mous con­se­quences.

Wil­liam Dombi, a vice pres­i­dent at the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Home Care & Hospice, one of the groups in­volved in the case, said it will af­fect 1 mil­lion to 2 mil­lion work­ers, their em­ploy­ers, con­sumers and state Med­i­caid and other health pro­grams.

Twelve states have also filed a brief with the court urg­ing it to hear the case, say­ing the rule im­poses an un­funded li­a­bil­ity on them.

Last year, Roberts re­fused an in­dus­try re­quest to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of the lower court’s rul­ing.

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