A minimum wage hike might sound like a great development for home care. But unless Medicaid reimbursement rises as well, it puts home care agencies in a difficult position. That is what two Virginia state lawmakers argue in a recent op-ed in the Virginian-Pilot. 

“The Medicaid reimbursement rate for home care workers is only scheduled for a 7% increase after already being under-funded for decades,”  wrote Sen. L. Louise Lucas and Del. Lashrecse Aird. “Our current rate, a rate that is worth less today than the 1982 rate of $7, puts us near the bottom of the nation, which is unacceptable.

“Significantly raising the minimum wage without significantly increasing the Medicaid reimbursement rate creates another type of inequity, putting dollar-for-dollar pressure on home care agencies who provide care to Medicaid patients and good-paying jobs to care givers.” 

Virginia’s minimum wage hike — from $7.25 an hour to $9.50 an hour — takes effect on May 1. If Medicaid rates for personal care services don’t keep pace with the higher minimum wage, it will be “financially unsustainable for home care agencies  to provide services to Medicaid recipients. We are encouraging our colleagues in the General Assembly to step up and fully fund Medicaid reimbursement rates for home care workers,” Lucas and Aird said.

The provider community agrees with the lawmakers.“Home care is a necessary service within the continuum of aging services and we, too, encourage the Virginia General Assembly to step up and fully fund Medicaid reimbursement rates for the entire continuum to ensure positive aging for all Virginians,” Dana Parsons, vice president and legislative counsel for LeadingAge Virginia, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily.