Have you ever done a happy dance? Well I don’t dance, but I did a happy dance when I completed the enrollment process for health insurance through the new health care marketplace. It was frustrating at times, but the frustration was worth it because I finally have health insurance again!
I have had to deal with a lot of stress in the past in keeping my family insured through Badger Care, Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, as the children got older or the rules changed. I’ve also had my own struggles with maintaining health care coverage. For many years as a home care worker I qualified for Badger Care. Then I got a raise and was making $50 a month too much to qualify, so I had to switch to my employer’s insurance plan. That lasted for years, but I lost that insurance in November 2011 when the home care agency I work for stopped offering insurance because it was too expensive.
I went without health insurance for two and a half years after that. There were several times during that period when I should have seen a doctor but did not because I couldn’t afford it. Continue reading »
Posted by Jessica Brill Ortiz on May 18th, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Worker Voices Ring Loud and Clear at Capitol Hill Briefing
“That was so compelling.” “How can I learn more?” “How powerful!”
That was some of the feedback I received from the people who approached me following a May 8 briefing on Capitol Hill. The Washington, D.C. briefing was hosted by OWL–The Voice of Midlife and Older Women, to observe the release of its annual Mother’s Day report. The focus of this year’s report is long-term care, services and supports (LTSS), including growing demand, challenges, and opportunities for improvement, and I had been asked to talk about how direct care workers fit into that picture. My co-panelists highlighted key considerations including how best to meet the needs of older adults and people with disabilities, the challenges facing family caregivers, financing, and the lack of a political will for change. I spoke about the critical role played by direct care workers and how best to strengthen and support the direct care workforce to meet the growing demand for high-quality care and support.
When I spoke, there were gasps from the audience at the size and anticipated growth of the workforce, the percentage of women in the profession, and the low wages and high rate of dependence on public assistance among direct care workers. We are so familiar with these facts and figures that we sometimes forget how shocking they are to people who are new to them, but reactions at the briefing proved that we were reaching new people, teaching them about the urgency and importance of direct care workforce issues, and inspiring them to take action. Continue reading »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on May 16th, 2014 at 11:49 am | Comments Off on How to Improve Elder Care
This Wednesday, Direct Care Alliance, Eldercare Workforce Alliance and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care hosted an Older Americans Month tweetchat on how to support older adults’ independence, safety and health. Here are highlights from the chat, including links to moving testimonials, useful resources, and tips about how you can help.
Posted by Dorothy Lee on May 5th, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Comments Off on Obamacare Gave Me Back My Medicaid Coverage
Dorothy Lee is a home health aide living in New York City who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare), with the help of our Get Direct Care Workers Covered initiative.
I’ve been working for an agency here in New York for three years. Before that, I worked at a Ritz-Carlton in Florida. When I moved here I wanted to switch to working with the elderly. I like working with people, and when my grandmother was old I didn’t get to give her any attention. It feels good to be able to help other people’s grandparents.
When I worked at the hotel I had insurance through Aetna, but I started going without insurance soon after I started doing home health care. At first I had Medicaid through Health Plus, but they took it away because I was earning too much. They said I have to make less than $700 a month to get back on Medicaid. Continue reading »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on May 5th, 2014 at 10:23 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News
An Older Americans Month toolkit from Eldercare Workforce Alliance helps journalists and other stakeholders find publications, programs, and personal stories that focus on the health and safety of older Americans from EWA member organizations—including DCA.
“Home care services are among the most important work there is, and if we want it to be done well, dedicated home care workers should be compensated at a level that reflects their commitment and skills,” says an editorial in Maine’s Portland Press-Herald.
An excellent new publication from Center for Law and Social Policy explains a crucial but often overlooked part of compensation: direct care workers and other low-income workers are far less likely to get paid leave than higher-wage workers. The brief describes recent and pending laws and policies aimed at leveling the paid time off playing field.
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on May 1st, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Comments Off on DCA to Speak About Direct Care Workers at D.C. Briefing
Jessica Brill Ortiz
DCA National Advocacy Director Jessica Brill Ortiz will speak at a May 8 briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
OWL–The Voice of Midlife and Older Women is holding the briefing to observe the release of its annual Mother’s Day report, which focuses this year on long-term care, services and supports. Brill Ortiz will speak about the critical role played by direct care workers and how best to strengthen and support the workforce so workers can meet the growing demand for reliable, high-quality care and services.
The briefing will address a critical juncture at which America stands and how we can successfully navigate it: As our population ages and lives longer, we are experiencing a fast-growing need for long-term care, services and supports. Continue reading »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on April 22nd, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Comments Off on Talking About #fairpay
Last week Direct Care Alliance, 9to5 and the National Partnership for Women & Families co-hosted a tweet chat about why women still earn much less than men and what we can do to change that.
Equal pay for women is an important issue for direct care workers–and not just because 90% of all direct care workers are women. Like teaching, child care and other forms of “care work,” direct care is a traditionally female profession that pays less than it should because it has been pigeonholed–and devalued–as “women’s work.” And even within the profession, female direct care workers earn less than male workers on average.
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on April 22nd, 2014 at 11:54 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News
DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz will be one of the participants at a May 8 Capitol Hill briefing on long-term care hosted by OWL – the Voice of Midlife and Older Women. Jessica will explain the importance of direct care workers and the direct care workforce issues that must be addressed in order to ensure quality long-term care services and supports for all who need them.
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on April 17th, 2014 at 11:21 am | Comments Off on Helping Obamacare Work for Direct Care Workers
DCA’s Get Direct Care Workers Covered initiative has been helping direct care workers and other low-income workers in New York state get affordable health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Hadas Thier, the Outreach & Enrollment Coordinator for the initiative, recently answered questions from DCA’s Elise Nakhnikian about how the new law is helping direct care workers–and what could be done to make it work even better.
Hadas Thier (R) doing outreach
How were you able to help direct care workers with health insurance enrollment?
Over the last six months, we’ve reached out to hundreds of direct care workers in New York with information and assistance. It’s been really important to have an aggressive outreach campaign because so many people do not know what the Affordable Care Act is, how its marketplace works, and how it applies to them. This is doubly the case with many direct care workers, who may not have access to information through the internet, who may experience language barriers, and who often are isolated at their jobs if they work in individual homes.
Most of the direct care workers I spoke to had heard of “Obamacare” and wanted desperately to have health insurance, but did not know how to go about doing so. Across the board, workers were grateful to have clear information about what coverage options might be available to them and their families.Continue reading »
Posted by Peg Ankney on April 6th, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Comments Off on Speaking Up for the Profession I Love
About a month ago, DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz invited me to attend a March 25 advocacy day in Washington DC. The day was organized by Caring Across Generations, a movement of family members, workers, and others advocating for a system of quality, dignified care. I did some work with Caring Across last year through DCA, which is a member of their leadership team. I was impressed by their ethics and the work they are doing to improve our long-term care system, for both consumers and workers.
I wanted to visit the Capitol because of what I have already been experiencing in my state of Pennsylvania–and I am definitely not alone!
I’ve been a direct care worker for almost 40 years, 25 of them in home care. During the past 10 years I have witnessed a critical depletion in my workforce as demand grows. Because our senior population is living longer, there’s been a huge increase in the need for direct care workers who are passionate as well as compassionate, but too many of the trainees I see coming into the field have no heart for the profession. Instead, they see it only as something to pay the bills, or a stepping stone to something “better,” like a career as a nurse. Continue reading »
Posted by Bridget Siljander on April 6th, 2014 at 11:40 am | Comments Off on Fight for Direct Care Worker Raises Gaining Ground in Minnesota
Minnesota caregivers—also known as direct care workers or direct support professionals—have been fighting for many years to get the support that they need to continue doing the work that they love. Now that fight is gaining momentum in a big way, thanks to the 5% Campaign the Minnesota disability community is uniting around. The campaign is asking legislators for a 5% increase in funding for home and community-based services, 75% of which will go toward compensating caregivers. The funding would go to two state programs: Home and Community-Based Services and Intermediate Care Facilities for Developmental Disabilities.
Last month, people with disabilities, direct care workers and other advocates gathered for Disability Day at the Capitol. Minnesota Public Radio and Kare11, our local news station, both covered the event. Kare11 quoted Pam Gonnella of Eagan, whose daughter lives in a group home, about how important the workers there are to her daughter’s well-being. “Which is why it’s so important to raise wages and cut down on the turnover at group homes and home based agencies,” Eagan said. Continue reading »
Posted by Jessica Brill Ortiz on March 11th, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Comments Off on Spotlight on Nursing Home Staffing
Nursing facility staff levels are drawing increased attention lately, spurring discussion about the connection between staffing levels and the quality of care, services and support received by residents.
A Center for Medicare Advocacy analysis has found that although most nursing facilities in the U.S. do not have sufficient staff to provide residents with necessary care, the federal enforcement system cites very few facilities with staffing deficiencies and often does not impose any financial penalties even when it finds that a facility has insufficient staff. “The federal enforcement system cannot be effective in improving care for residents if it is not used,” the study concludes.
A recently released Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) report finds that one third of skilled nursing home residents are being harmed, and in some cases dying, as a result of “adverse or temporary harm events,” which are instances where harm results due either to the care provided by the facility or care that was not provided when needed.
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on February 24th, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Comments Off on Get Direct Care Workers Covered: A Home Care Aide Relieved to Have Health Care Coverage but Wishing It Were Even Cheaper
Beverly, a home health aide in New York City, usually works 5 days a week for 7 hours a day, but her hours—and therefore her pay—fluctuate, as they do for most home care workers. At just $10.58 an hour, she earned about $18,000 last year. For her first five years on the job, her earnings were low enough that she qualified for health insurance though Medicaid, but in 2012 she lost her coverage.
Beverly has high blood pressure and asthma, two chronic health conditions that get much worse if she can’t afford the medications needed to manage them. She also has to have mammograms every six months ever since abnormal cells were found on a biopsy. “You definitely have to have health insurance,” she says. Continue reading »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on February 10th, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Comments Off on Advocates Launch Medicaid Expansion Campaign in Texas
As part of our Get Direct Care Workers Covered initiative, DCA is working with direct care workers and ally organizations/coalitions in key states to advocate for Medicaid expansion, so more direct care workers and their families have access to affordable, quality health care. One of these states is Texas.
Over six million Texans are uninsured, giving the state the highest rate of uninsured people in the U.S., but state lawmakers decided not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Their decision means Texas has lost billions of federal dollars that could have expanded health coverage. And that leaves more than one million Texans, including many direct care workers and their families, in a health care coverage gap, ineligible for Medicaid and also for financial assistance with policies bought through the new health insurance exchange. Continue reading »
The text of a tweet chat about professional and family caregivers and direct care care consumers that was hosted last Wednesday by Caring Across Generations, DCA and family caregiver advocate Denise Brown.
A “good jobs” executive order could help direct care workers by setting standards for jobs paid for by government funding such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on January 27th, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Comments Off on Aging Today Outlines How the Home Care Rule Was Won
“While the extension of minimum wage and overtime protections to homecare workers was a great win, a tremendous amount of advocacy is needed to maintain it,” write Direct Care Alliance (DCA) Executive Director Carla Washington and National Advocacy Director Jessica Brill Ortiz in the January-February issue of Aging Today, the bimonthly newspaper of the American Society on Aging. “We continue to work with our allies to ensure that the regulations are not derailed by Congress. We are also working to ensure that workers, consumers, employers and other stakeholders nationwide understand what the rule means for them—and why it is a victory for us all.”
Posted by Jessica Brill Ortiz on December 17th, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Comments Off on How the FAMILY Act Will Help Direct Care Workers, Their Clients, and Our Economy
Earlier this month, DCA was invited to join a MomsRising “blog carnival” in support of a new bill that would make paid family and medical leave available to nearly all workers in the U.S. This piece, by DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz, ran as part of the series.
December 12 was an important day in the fight to help direct care workers and their families and other hard-working people in the U.S. On that day, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), a national paid family and medical leave program, into Congress.
Under the bill, nearly all U.S. workers would be able to take a limited period of time off from work while receiving a portion of their wages in order to address a serious health condition of their own or of a parent, spouse, domestic partner or child. Workers would also be eligible for the leave for pregnancy, childbirth, to care for a new child and for certain types of military leave or caregiving for a military spouse.