Casey Introduces Bill to Develop Health Care Workforce

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced legislation that will provide assistance to direct care workers to help care for an aging population.  Senator Casey discussed this legislation yesterday at a U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging field hearing entitled “Taking Care of Mom and Dad: Why We Need a Quality Workforce to Serve Our Older Americans” in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

“Our Commonwealth, as well as the rest of the nation, is facing a serious problem: providing access to a quality workforce for an aging population,” said Senator Casey.  “The baby boom generation will start turning 65 next year and will begin to qualify for Medicare. By 2030, all 78 million will have reached that age.  As this population ages, they will place new demands on our health care system.  We have a responsibility to do this and to get it right, but we also have an opportunity to make Pennsylvania a leader in health care workforce development.”

The Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act aims to ensure that home care workers receive the federal minimum wage and overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act, improve federal and state data collection and oversight with respect to the direct care workforce and establish a grant program to help states improve direct care worker recruitment, retention and training.
The number of Americans needing long-term care is expected to double in the coming decades from 13 million in 2000 to 27 million in 2050.   The vast majority, 70-80 percent, of paid care will be provided by direct care workers.  In Pennsylvania, direct care workers help more than 250,000 Pennsylvanians and their families.  Despite providing care and services that help millions of older citizens and people with disabilities maintain their dignity and autonomy and often remain in their homes, most direct care workers receive low wages, little or no benefits and insufficient training and professional development. As a result, there are high turnover rates that can compromise the quality of care our older citizens and people with disabilities deserve.   

Congresswoman Linda Sanchez introduced H.R. 5902, the companion legislation, in the House of Representatives last week.