Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joined Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and colleagues in introducing the Better Care Better Jobs Act. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the urgent need to ensure that all Americans have the option to receive quality, long-term care in the setting that meets their needs and preferences, and the vast majority of Americans prefer to receive such care and support at home. This legislation would expand access to home and community-based services for older adults, people with disabilities, and injured workers, while increasing pay and improving benefits for the caregivers who provide this life-sustaining care.
“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our country is facing a caregiving crisis impacting many families across Oregon,” Merkley said. “For our communities to thrive after the pandemic, we must work to expand access to home care services, reduce waitlists for necessary care, and ensure that our caregiving heroes are paid a living wage. Passing this legislation would be an important step forward, and I am determined to do all I can to put these services within reach for families in every corner of the country.”
“Home and community-based care build a lifeline for Oregonians with disabilities and their families, and this legislation originating in the Finance Committee represents a historic investment to make receiving good quality care in the comfort and safety of home a real possibility,” said Wyden, Chair of the Finance Committee. “This bill also kickstarts the long overdue need to ensure home care workers earn a livable wage and that family caregivers have more supports when they provide care to their loved ones. I fought hard to get these transformational reforms passed last year, and I’ll continue fighting on behalf of families across Oregon who want to live and thrive at home.”
While all states provide coverage for some home care services, there are significant variations and gaps in coverage due to varying eligibility and benefits standards. The home care workforce—a majority of whom are women and people of color—earn a median wage of $13 per hour with few or no benefits while providing life-sustaining care. Roughly 18 percent of these workers live in poverty. This results in exceptionally high annual turnover rates, estimated to be above 60 percent.
The Better Care Better Jobs Act would enhance Medicaid funding for home care, helping many of the over 650,000 people on waiting lists nationally finally receive care in the setting of their choice, allowing them to stay active in their communities, and live independently. This legislation would provide support to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to conduct oversight and encourage innovation to benefit direct care workers and care recipients.
Furthermore, the Better Care Better Jobs Act would strengthen the caregiving workforce by increasing payment rates to promote recruitment and retention of direct care workers, increase wages, and develop and update training opportunities.
In addition to Merkley, Wyden, and Casey, the Senate cosponsors of the Better Care Better Jobs Act are U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Fetterman (D-PA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jack Reed (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Peter Welch (D-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
A bill summary of the Better Care Better Jobs Act can be found here.