California Gov. Jerry Brown Sept. 30 vetoed two proposed bills that would have significantly affected the future of senior care in the state.
AB 889 would have set the wheels in motion to change significantly the wage and hour regulations for privately hired and agency-employed caregivers. Home-care workers are covered currently by long-standing federal and state regulations, including those in California Wage Order 15. These regulations simultaneously provide protection for workers and take into consideration the unique nature of home-care services. AB 889 included additional restrictions that would have made the cost of home care substantially more expensive, in some cases more than doubling the cost.
Brown wisely vetoed AB 889 and provided his reasoning in a letter to the State Assembly outlining his concerns expressed in a host of “unanswered questions” about the bill’s impact.
According to Brown, “In the face of consequences unknown and unintended, I find it more prudent to do the studies before considering any untested legal regime for those that work in our homes.”
Many of the governor’s questions revolve around the economic impact on seniors and their ability to obtain care as well as the possible negative consequences for workers.
Brown also vetoed SB 411, which would have established state licensure for nonmedical home-care agencies. Today, approximately 25 states have licensure requirements, including large states like New York and Texas. California, however, does not.
SB 411 unfortunately tried to do too much, too soon and was ultimately vetoed due to the estimated $25 million price tag for implementation.
There has been considerable support for greater oversight of home-care services by home-care agencies for the past several years. Last year, the California Association for Health Services at Home (CAHSAH) supported AB 899, a comparable licensure bill.
AB 899 would have required licensure of agencies operating in California as well as consumer protections such as training and background clearance of caregivers and agency owners, tuberculosis testing of caregivers and consumer financial protections such as liability insurance and CA-Workers Compensation coverage.
AB 899 never made it out of the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee due to the high cost of implementing it. Unfortunately, SB 411’s authors were unwilling to work with AB 899’s sponsor to meld the two bills into a workable solution.
Home-care licensure is needed in California. As founder and owner of a home-care agency in Los Altos, I already provide these consumer protections that licensure would likely require, but I would like to see them become mandatory for all agencies.
It’s likely that budgetary realities may preclude licensure from becoming mandatory during the next several years. In lieu of state regulations, CAHSAH is exploring other types of oversight for California home-care agencies, such as independent third-party accreditation to ensure quality.
The appropriate level of regulation for home-care services continues to be an important issue that must be addressed as the senior population explodes. Solutions must balance the needs of all parties, most importantly those of our seniors.
I look forward to working with my fellow agency colleagues, employees, clients and legislators to provide input on workable programs that provide those protections for all parties but also stimulate competition and innovation on behalf of consumers.