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The union that represents the home health-care aides, who number in excess of 20,000, is paying wages averaging just $6 to $7 an hour. There are people working in Burger King and McDonald’s who make more than that with a free order of a burger and fries thrown in, too.

In many cases these very same health-care aides maintain no benefits. And should that be a surprise? Who could afford health benefits with these types of wages? The health aides are seeking a pay increase with a base salary of $10 an hour plus benefits by 2006. So what’s holding up the war effort?

It does not appear to be the fault of the home-care agencies that receive just $17 an hour. After deducting the $6 to $7 in base pay, they must cover additional overhead recruitment, training and beneficial costs, not to mention an array of supervision expenses such as equipment, RN supervision, clinical supplies and support and bookkeeping costs.

The real dilemma appears to be our complicated Medicaid/Medicare system with its staunch $17 hourly payment limitation to agencies. Trying to cover these kind of expenses with such tight restraints is like dropping a feather in the Grand Canyon and expecting to hear something.

I paid just $7 an hour 13 years ago for a home health aide for my father — and I considered that quite a bargain at the time. Today these same people are making the same amount of money and even less. It’s quite interesting that our legislative members in Albany as well as our Congress in Washington, D.C. feel no reluctance to have taken several raises over these very same years, not to mention medical benefits that are second to none.

So how’s business for home health aides? The ignored required actions of today will become the urgent matters of tomorrow. Our lawmakers in Albany had better make this matter a priority and realize that, like it or not, they someday (if lucky) will become old and may require this very essential care.

Joe Palumbo is the fund manager for The Palco Group Inc., an investment company, and can be reached at palcogroup@aol.com or 718-461-8317.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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