Sat10252014

Senior Lifestyles

Two new state laws affect home-care services for seniors

Two new bills passed in last fall’s state legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown promise to have an immediate and long-term effect on California’s senior population.

AB241: Domestic Worker Bill of Rights

With our rapidly aging population and 90 percent of California’s seniors wishing to remain at home as they age, home-care aide is among the top five fastest-growing job occupations. These workers provide care to hundreds of thousands of seniors and disabled Californians every day. Historically, these workers have been exempt from overtime pay, but effective Jan. 1, they are eligible for overtime pay after nine hours in a day and 45 hours in a week.

On the surface, this change may not appear to be substantial. It’s hard to argue against providing overtime to any workers. Indeed, the net effect to seniors who require hourly care during the day should be minimal – perhaps a 5-10 percent increase in cost. However, a large number of California seniors and disabled require live-in care. Unfortunately, the new law did not take these situations into account, because all pay after the ninth hour in a 24-hour day must be paid at time and a half. It is essentially a 50 percent increase in cost for nearly two-thirds of the hours worked.

This seemingly small change in the law has prompted an immediate increase of 30 percent or more in the cost of live-in care. The law applies both to privately hired caregivers and those hired through an agency.

Interestingly, however, the state exempted itself from its own law. The hundreds of thousands of aides employed by the state through In-Home Supportive Services will not be paid overtime because the cost to the state would have been hundreds of millions of dollars.

AB241 expires in three years unless renewed. In the interim, Brown is setting up a committee to review the impact of the bill. I encourage you to write the governor and/or your state representatives to let them know your thoughts. See the sidebar on page 41 for contact information.

AB1217: Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act

After several attempts over the past seven years, legislators finally passed a bill to require licensure and oversight of organizations providing nonmedical in-home care to seniors. The law doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2017, which provides time to implement the regulations in a thoughtful way that promotes safety for consumers and professionalism of the home-care aide occupation in general.

For agencies like mine, Homecare California, the requirements are the same that have been practiced for years – thorough screening and criminal background checking of employees, liability insurance and theft bonding of aides, tuberculosis screening and caregiver training.

But AB1217 adds mechanisms to check the status of both home-care agencies and consumers as well as the status of their aides on a state website much like they can do today for a nursing home, nurse or nurse assistant.

And while there will be substantial costs to home-care agencies to support the program, I believe that the benefits outweigh the costs. For example, aides can be fingerprinted once and those results can be shared among agencies. Today, each agency has to perform its own background checks, and there is inconsistency to the extent each agency performs its check. Homecare California fingerprints its aides, whereas some agencies use the aide’s Social Security number and last-known address.

California can set the example for a well-thought-out implementation of licensure that puts consumers first and then balances the needs of workers and organizations that employ them to promote a steady flow of professional, well-trained aides to keep costs to seniors from rising too rapidly.

If you have questions about how these laws may affect your individual situation, feel free to contact me and we can discuss which provisions you may want to put into place to ensure that you comply with the new state laws.

Greg Hartwell is founder and CEO of Homecare California, a Los Altos-based in-home caregiving agency. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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