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Restriction on Companionship Exemption Finalized By DOL

Be prepared to add a new layer of bureaucracy to your aide scheduling with effect from January 2015. The Department of Labor is removing the companionship exemption to minimum wage along with overtime rules for home care aides who are employed by a third party, which also includes home health agencies.

According to the DOL, this change was suggested nearly two years back when President Obama had made a promise to make sure that direct care workers will receive adequate pay for a full day of work. Additionally, the introduction of a “fair wage” will help a crucial line of work which is short of efficient staff to be stable and become professional.

But, on the other hand, those opposed to the change in FLSA exception are dubious of the fact that the rule will bring about differences in the pay handed out to aides. To add to the woes, because of reimbursement constraints, there will be a pressure on agencies to keep a check on the aides’ hours and limit it to fewer than 40. This, however, will encourage aides to seek employment in multiple agencies to cover-up for the shortfall.

Experts feel that although this change is directed towards helping caregivers who work hard, it will end up having the opposite effect. Moreover, it will generate issues for vulnerable citizens based on the attitude of advocates for people with disabilities.

According to NAHC, people will start receiving less care because of this change. Home Care Agencies will be left with no choice but to appoint part time workers since Medicaid payment rates and people with low income will not be able to afford such high costs. Thus, the irony is Caregivers will end up receiving less pay. The restriction will have immense impact on agencies who receive Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement because private agencies will be able to garner overtime costs by passing it on to their clients but there will be no changes in government reimbursement. So, the end result of this change will result in extensive scheduling and tracking of hours by home health agencies, reduced stability of employment for aides and more aides getting allotted to patients.

The restriction will also have a huge impact on the quality of care that is provided. This is because agencies will have to hire more aides to cover up for the same time. Providers who are already following the FLSA minimum wage and overtime rules are satisfied with the new proposal as now their competitors will have to follow the same set of guidelines.

There have been several differences amongst lawmakers regarding this revision. According to leading sources and experts, politicians are not willing to accept the changes mostly along party lines. They have mixed reactions and are not unanimous. According to some, the implication of this rule has been delayed for long in being fair to all the caregivers who are an integral part of supporting and caring for citizens who are most vulnerable. Moreover, it can also prove to e helpful in reducing turnover and help in increasing the size as well as quality of people who provide home care.

On the other hand, some feel that the proposal will bring about a huge rise in costs and give very limited access to people who need in-home care.

One area of concern is HHAs now have to stay cautious of lawsuits from unsatisfied staff along with the additional burden of increase in pay. It is essential that agencies gear-up to stay compliant when the new rule gets implemented in 2015.

To get more related information on the new rule and other DOL resources related to the changes, final rule and expert answers to questions you can visit dol.gov/whd/homecare/finalrule.htm.

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