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Democratic bill aims to protect direct-care workers

Apr 15, 2024
Illustration of a nurse walking with an elderly man.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Direct-care workers would get better pay, more training and protection against unfair labor practices under a sweeping new bill from Democrats.

Why it matters: There's a shortage of people willing to work as caregivers for older and disabled people and take on jobs often requiring long hours and strenuous activity for low pay.

The big picture: The legislation comes as the Biden administration continues to finalize new federal nursing home staffing standards, which long-term care operators say will be impossible to meet in the current labor market.

Catch up quick: Sens. Bob Casey, Tim Kaine and Tammy Baldwin introduced the bill Monday. Rep. Debbie Dingell introduced a companion bill in the House.

  • The lawmakers previously carried legislation to improve conditions for home care workers, but this version applies to people working in assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other settings.

How it works: The bill would increase federal Medicaid funding for home care provided by direct care workers through 2034 and create new grants for career training programs.

  • It also would protect workers from wage theft and require fair scheduling practices for home care aides.
  • And it directs HHS to develop a tool for assessing direct care workers' wellbeing and to establish a commission to develop professional standards for care workers.

The 120-page legislation is the most comprehensive bill ever introduced on the long-term care workforce, a Casey spokesperson said.

What's next: The Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on the issue on Tuesday.

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