More than 300 caregivers, employers and clients flew to Sacramento on February 21st to encourage lawmakers to pass thoughtful, reasonable laws regarding home care for the disabled and elderly.

At the one day conference, members of the home care industry awarded Assembly Member Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) as Legislator of the Year for her efforts to introduce a cost-effective and reasonable bill that would regulate home care. Her bill stalled in the Assembly despite its goals to protect seniors, agencies and care workers rights from unscrupulous companies and the underground economy.

Lobby Day was organized by the California Association for Health Services at Home in direct response to two bills that threaten to vastly increase the home health care cost.

The first is SB411, proposed by Senator Price and co-sponsored by the SEIU, a union that represents service workers.  SB411 would regulate home care, which most responsible home care agency owners support.  The problem with SB411 is that it would cost the cash-strapped California $25 million and would impose excessive regulatory costs onto home care agencies.

For example, under SB411, home care workers would need to be “certified” annually before they could perform non-medical in home care such as meal preparation, assistance with bathing, dressing and safety monitoring.  This is a higher standard of regulation than for workers who currently provide certified nursing assistant services.  Plus, at a cost of $165 per employee, per year, this certification would lead to a “tax” on the average home care business of $20,000 – $50,000 per year, an excessive fee to do business in California.

While the concept of SB411 is good, the bill goes way to far and micromanages and overwhelms the home care owner.  In addition, it would require the names and places of employment of each caregiver be posted publicly online.  This would threaten caregiver privacy and make them easy targets of identity thieves.

When Georgetta, a home care worker for more than 20 years, heard that her name and employer would be publicly posted online, she responded, “That’s not safe,  I don’t want my information available like that.”

Equally troubling is AB889, proposed by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), that would end the personal care exemption for home care workers and would assume an employer is negligent if an employee files a worker’s compensation claim.  This would reverse the efforts California has made to decrease the amount of fraud and waste in the worker’s compensation system. It would also shorten worker’s hours, remove the paid meal times worker’s currently get with unpaid meal times and would increase the cost for seniors.

This bill does the opposite of what it intends.

Mr. Ammiano calls his bill the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights, and he is promoting it along with the union the AFL-CIO.   Mr. Ammiano cites wage and hour abuses in the domestic service industry as the need for the regulations.

Most responsible home care agencies agree that there are wage and hour abuses in domestic work, however those abuses tend to happen in private homes with workers who are not appropriately paid and do not have payroll taxes deducted.  Private workers in homes also do not have the protections of worker’s compensation insurance and employee bonding.  Adding new regulations to responsible home care agencies who already abide by the law and have appropriate protections would do nothing to stop the “door to door’ abuses in private homes.   All AB889 would do is add another layer of regulation that would fail to even touch the “underground economy” where payroll taxes are not paid and protections are not in place.

Lauren Reynolds, Owner and founder of At Home Care Solution attended lobby day and had meetings with Assemblymember Ben Hueso (D-Chula Vista), his legislative analyst Maria Garcia and Julie Hopper, a staff member of Senator Mark Wyland, (R-Carlsbad).

Assemblymember Hueso and Garcia had a good understanding of SB411 and were very attentive and polite in hearing the concerns of Reynolds and another home care agency owner.

Julie Hopper also understood the proposed bills and was supportive of the CAHSAH group in their request for help to amend or defeat the bills.

CAHSAH supports regulations of the home care industry, but in the current business and economic climate in California, those regulations need to make financial senses or as the saying goes, the cure will be worse than the disease.