July 27, 2010
HISTORIC DAY – Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD) signed an agreement on July 26 that will improve the lives of more than 4,500 independent home care providers represented by AFSCME Council 67. Shown here with the governor, applying her signature to the document, is Allegany County provider Delores Molok Khan, a member of the union’s bargaining team. (Photo credit: Luis Gomez)
In their second victory since voting to join AFSCME Council 67in 2008, approximately 4,500 independent home care providers throughout Maryland now have a contract that will help improve the conditions of their work and the services they offer.
“We have worked diligently to negotiate a contract that demands respect for our time and respect for our work.” says home care provider Tijuana Miller, a member of the bargaining team. “We are some of the lowest-wage workers in Maryland and yet we are the core of the community. Now, we have the opportunity to receive better wages and training opportunities and we can negotiate the things we want in our workplace.”
“It has been long overdue,” adds Glen Middleton, executive director of Council 67 and an AFSCME International vice president. “The providers, who offer essential services to the citizens of Maryland, finally have a voice in the workplace just like other workers. They deserve to be treated fairly.”
Home care providers work in the residences of some 20,000 seniors and others with disabilities, making it possible for those individuals to live in familiar surroundings with dignity and respect. The alternatives are nursing homes or state-run nursing facilities, both more costly options for state taxpayers.
The three-year agreement, ratified in July, increases provider rates and sets up a state-provider cooperation committee to address health and safety concerns, improve and extend professional development and other conditions affecting providers.
Specifically, the contract includes a first-year, 4 percent rate hike for approximately 2,500 providers working in the lowest-paid Medicaid Personal Care program. The increase – which is dependent on the state Legislature approving an amended rate regulation – will allow this group to reach parity with the other providers who work in these programs:
- Living at Home: Community Choices, administered by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
- Medicaid Waiver for Older Adults, administered by the Department of Aging.
- In-Home Aide Service program, administered by the Department of Human Resources.
The contract also establishes a committee that will study and propose improvements in several areas, including the providers’ payment system. The goal is to minimize late or incorrect payments which have been a periodic problem.
Other committee goals include identifying opportunities for professional development, improving the system for linking clients to available providers, and helping identify which providers are eligible for state health care and insurance benefits.
A provider’s “Bill of Rights” is also included in the contract. Among its provisions is a recognition that a provider should be treated professionally, with courtesy, dignity and respect; the right to file a discrimination complaint with the appropriate state agency; the right to have their files kept confidential; the right to timely reimbursement of covered services; the right to participate in an impartial grievance and appeals process; the right to receive notice of new policies and procedures affecting their services; and the right to request a photo ID of any state agent or representative.
A Home Care Provider Recognition Day is also established.
Read more about the Maryland home care providers in this earlier story.
AFSCME represents approximately 95,000 independent home care providers nationwide.