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 Direct Care Alliance on February 11th, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News
A MomsRising blog carnival on how the Affordable Care Act is affecting health care coverage includes posts from DCA member and home care worker Mohan Varghese and from DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz and Elise Nakhnikian.
A worker from DCA Board Chair Tracy Dudzinski’s Wautoma, Wisconsin-based home care coop is one of the experts quoted in this NPR report on the growing trend of seniors caring for seniors.
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on November 21st, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Comments Off on Learn How to Go from Home Care Worker to Business Owner in WI
In a recent Minnesota Post article, Tracy Dudzinski helped explain why home care co-ops are a promising solution to the growing need for home care services. If you live in Wisconsin, please join us on December 5, when Tracy will explain this exciting opportunity in a Direct Care Alliance informational session on what it takes to start a home care co-op.
Tracy is a caregiver, administrative coordinator, and board chair at Cooperative Care, a leading home care co-op based in Wautoma, Wisconsin. She also serves as DCA’s board chair. About 60 home care workers at Cooperative Care provide services for about 150 clients in Waushara, Winnebago, Green Lake, Adams, Fond du Lac and Marquette counties.
Join our conference call to hear Tracy explain what a co-op is, how it is governed and what the benefits are to caregivers and clients. She’ll also answer your questions. Continue reading »
Today in Washington, D.C., DCA joined with allies from AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Caring Across Generations, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Association, the Institute for Policy Studies, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, NCLR,the National Employment Law Proiect, PHI and SEIU to celebrate home care workers and the rule that will give them minimum wage and overtime protections. This is the toast I gave there, on behalf of DCA.
I would like to thank President Obama, Secretary Perez and the Department of Labor for meeting with and listening to the people who do this work every day and the people we serve.
I remember when I stood with President Obama as he announced the proposed rule in December of 2011. I was proud to hear him speak about my profession with such respect. That night I felt like I could fly back to Wisconsin without boarding the plane. I had the same feeling last week when the final rule was announced. Thank you again! Continue reading »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on July 2nd, 2013 at 9:00 am | Comments Off on Voices Institute Coming to Wisconsin
Voices Institute Graduates at a Medicaid rally in Texas
DCA and the Wisconsin Direct Caregiver Alliance are co-hosting the Leonila Vega Voices Institute on September 18-19, 2013 in Lake Delton, WI. The two-day training helps direct care workers develop their leadership, advocacy, and organizational development skills, so they can lead the movement to improve direct care jobs. As a part of this training, participants will go to the State Capitol to advocate for policies that will benefit direct care workers and the people they serve.
The Leonila Vega Voices Institute provides leadership and empowerment training that prepares participants to educate policymakers about the issues that are important to them, build local and statewide worker associations, and develop fundraising and public speaking skills. Click here for an application to the Wisconsin Voices Institute and learn more about the Leonila Vega Voices Institute.
Hundreds of thousands of direct care workers have no health insurance because they cannot afford pricey premiums and copays, yet they’re not eligible for coverage under Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for low-income Americans. The Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as health care reform or Obamacare) provides important ways for these workers and other low-income individuals and families to get affordable health care coverage.
Unfortunately, resistance from state lawmakers and others opposed to key aspects of the law is limiting access to affordable health care in some states. That’s why Direct Care Alliance, our members and allies are advocating for affordable health care through the ACA—and we hope you’ll join us! Continue reading »
On November 19, 2012, DCA lost a visionary leader and undying source of inspiration with the passing of Leonila Vega. This is a very sad time for all of us, but she also leaves us with much to celebrate, including the legacy of worker leadership and empowerment that became DCA’s identity under her direction.
Fourteen months ago, Leonila took a medical leave from DCA. She had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, and she decided to receive care in Milwaukee so that she could be with Brad Nelson, her partner and caregiver, while she fought the disease she called “the Monster.” Though she intended to return to DCA, we felt her absence immediately. Continue reading »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on October 8th, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Comments Off on Article Spotlights Home Care Workers’ Fight for Respect
DCA Board Chair and home care worker Tracy Dudzinski and Latasha Smith, a Houston home care worker who attended DCA’s Houston Voices Institute, are the two experts quoted in a feature story about poor wages and benefits for home care workers and how workers are fighting to improve them.
They also talked about the National Day of Action organized by DCA in partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice on September 21. Both went to Washington, D.C. with DCA that day to urge their elected representatives to support minimum wage and overtime pay for home care workers. “I knew if I wanted things to change, I had to speak up. I had to be a part of the change I wanted to see,” says Dudzinski.
In her opening remarks last Friday morning in Washington, D.C., DCA National Advocacy Coordinator Jessica Brill Ortiz urged the advocates heading to Capitol Hill for the National Day of Action to speak from personal experience when they talked to legislators and their staff about why home care workers need Fair Labor Standards Act protections. “Your stories are very powerful,” she said, “and you can tell them best.”
Their stories aren’t the only tool in these advocates’ belts, but they are certainly one of the most powerful, as seen in the following excerpts from conversations held after their Hill visits with DCA Communications Advisor Elise Nakhnikian.
Timothy Doe (L) waiting to board a train to DC.
“At Senator Kyl’s office, the staff member we talked to knew about the bill. He said his aunt is a caregiver, so he knows how hard we work. He also asked us what we do as caregivers. We described it from the top to the bottom, and he was very impressed.”
— Home care worker and DCA member Timothy Doe, Tucson, Arizona
“I told him the demand is great and the jobs are growing, but we can’t attract new people because we can tell them the job is great but the money is not good.”
Posted by Tracy Dudzinski on August 27th, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Comments Off on Upcoming Conference Hosted by and for Wisconsin Caregivers
The Wisconsin Direct Caregiver Alliance is excited to announce its third annual conference, which will be held on September 6 and 7 at the Wintergreen resort and conference center in Wisconsin Dells. Our conference is put on by direct care workers for direct care workers. Our aim is to educate direct care workers, give ourselves an opportunity to meet and learn from one another, and strengthen our leadership and advocacy skills.
This year, we’re emphasizing three sides of care: caring for yourself, for your consumers, and for your profession. After an evening of networking and refreshments, we’ll start the educational part of the conference on Friday morning. Dr. Ann Polar, who has trained thousands of direct care workers and other health care professionals, will provide a new perspective on professional boundaries in her keynote address. Continue reading »
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court held three days of hearings focused on challenges to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, the health care bill informally referred to as Obamacare. Millions of Americans will be affected by the Court’s ruling on the Act, which is expected this week.
Direct care workers have a lot at stake. Approximately 900,000 direct care workers are currently without health insurance, which limits their access to affordable health care for themselves and, in many cases, their families. Recent estimates show that nearly 1 in 5 direct care workers depend on Medicaid. Continue reading »
Direct Care Alliance Board Chair Tracy Dudzinski was at the White House last Friday for a briefing on cooperatives.
Tracy Dudzinski at the White House
DCA: Who was there and what did you talk about?
TRACY: The National Cooperative Business Association invited leaders from 150 cooperatives across the nation to talk to the White House staff about what co-ops can do for the economy.
My agency, Cooperative Care, is a worker-owned home care cooperative, and I’m the chair of their board too. Cooperative Care was one of the featured success stories in the packet of information that NCBA made up for the White House staff. There were only eight or ten of them, so that was pretty good.
Did you get a chance to speak?
One of our allies from here in Wisconsin got the floor and talked about home care co-ops. Then she nodded at me and said I was from Cooperative Care and we were a success story, so I was able to speak a little about how we’re doing so well that we have hired 15 new people in the last year. Continue reading »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on April 3rd, 2012 at 10:21 am | Comments Off on Wisconsin Elder Care, Disability Advocates Win Budget Battle
Advocates for the aging and people with disabilities in Wisconsin achieved an important victory on March 19 when the governor signed a law lifting the caps that had been imposed on three key Medicaid programs supplying home and community-based services. We talked to Lisa Pugh, the public policy coordinator at Disability Rights Wisconsin, about how the advocates won and why it matters.
First of all, congratulations!
Thank you. It’s a huge victory for community-based services and the people who provide them.
For those of us who don’t live in Wisconsin, can you please explain what these programs do?
Wisconsin has a home and community-based care waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that we call Family Care. It’s a program for the aging and people with physical and developmental disabilities. This was born out of a bipartisan agreement in our legislature, about 10 years ago, that people should be able to live where they want, which is mostly their own homes or in the community. Continue reading »
Last Thursday was a big day in the history of the fight for direct care worker rights, and I was lucky enough to be right there in Washington, DC, representing DCA and my fellow home care workers when President Obama made the announcement. (That’s me in the video, right behind the President’s left shoulder). The President was telling the press about a proposed rule that would finally give home care workers Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protections.
I felt truly honored and humbled as I headed in to the Department of Labor on Thursday morning and met the other home care workers who were there for the announcement. We got to meet the staff who had made this proposed rule change a reality, who are all very passionate about correcting this injustice against home care workers. It was strange because they treated us like royalty. I told them that I wanted to thank them for all their hard work, but they kept saying we workers were the ones who deserved to be thanked for all that we do. Continue reading »
As many of you know, I am an employee-owner of a supportive home care agency in Wisconsin that is a worker-owned cooperative. I chair the board of directors, which recently had to make a very difficult decision: We had to stop offering health insurance coverage to our employees.
I was on the insurance so I had to excuse myself from the board’s discussions, but from what I heard afterward, it was a difficult decision for the board to make. One of the reasons the cooperative was founded was to offer health insurance to its members. It was hard for the board members to let go of that goal, but we just couldn’t afford not to.
The cheapest plan we could find was too expensive—for us and for our employees. Continue reading »
Every year here in Wisconsin we honor four direct care workers, one supervisor of direct care workers, and one administrator in long term care. I was honored to present the awards last week to my fellow direct care workers.
I got to visit with most of the winners before the presentation, which was at a luncheon at the Wisconsin Personal Services Association conference. Vivian Havens has been a direct care worker for 45 years, 25 of which have been for her current employer. She is 80 years old. I call that dedication. Continue reading »
Being elected the chair of the board of directors for the Direct Care Alliance at our annual meeting this year was a great honor and an important step in a leadership journey I’ve been on for a few years. It’s also been an honor to work with my talented fellow board members, including several new Voices Institutes graduates who began serving their terms this year.
As many of you already know, I am the chair of the board of directors for a worker-owned home care cooperative I work for in Wisconsin. A few years ago, I became chair of the Wisconsin Direct Caregiver Alliance, and I am on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Long Term Care Workforce Alliance.
But being the chair of a powerful national organization like the DCA brings new opportunities and responsibilities. My fellow direct care worker board members and I are responsible for representing the voice of the workers. We make up the majority of the board members, and that is an excellent start, but it’s our responsibility to make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear–not just within the DCA but in wider discussions about the work we do. Over the next year, I plan to help the DCA become better recognized as the voice of direct care workers. Continue reading »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on July 25th, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Comments Off on Elders, Community Organizations & Disability Leaders in Wisconsin Fight Cap on Home Care Funding
The following letter was sent to U.S. Secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius by the Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations.
The Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations is writing to join various other organizations and elected officials in asking you to deny Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith’s anticipated request to eliminate the entitlement feature of Wisconsin’s Family Care Waiver. As you know, the current agreement in effect between CMS and Wisconsin includes the following language:
“Every eligible person will have entitlement to Family Care within 36 months of implementation of the Family Care Waiver in his or her county. Every person with a nursing home level of care will have the choice of receiving the Family Care (or in some parts of the state Partnership) benefit by enrolling in a managed care organization or to choose Medicaid fee-for-service benefits including participation in IRIS, Wisconsin’s self-directed supports waiver, if desired.”Read full letter to Secretary Sebelius.