Gov. Sam Brownback last week met with the elderly and individuals with disabilities to outline actions he is taking to challenge a new federal Department of Labor rule that will compromise the state’s system of providing their in-home care and services.
“This is another example of federal overreach that directly affects the quality of life for our most vulnerable Kansans,” Brownback said. “It threatens our system of providing services that allow many elderly and disabled in Kansas to continue to live independently in their homes and communities rather than in institutions.”
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a new Final Rule that will take effect Jan. 1, 2015 that creates new, very strict overtime requirements for supportive homecare workers and personal care attendants who care for the disabled and the elderly. It will have a dramatic effect on home- and community-based services provided to KanCare members who are on the physical disability, developmental disability and frail elderly Medicaid waiver programs.
“We want homecare workers and personal care attendants to be paid fairly,” Brownback said. “But this new rule guts a system that has worked successfully for nearly 40 years and threatens a family-oriented system that lets disabled individuals have choice and control over their life.”
The likely immediate effect of the new rule would be to limit direct service workers’ hours to 40 hours-per-week. This would create workforce shortages as many of these workers would chose to look elsewhere for employment in fields where their earning would not be limited by a federal rule. Providing adequate staffing is already a challenge in all areas of the state. Limiting workers’ hours in this way would also affect the ability of KanCare consumers to find qualified staff to provide their in-home care, especially in sparsely populated, rural and frontier communities.
The Governor outlined the multiple steps being taken to challenge the rule:
• A letter was sent to the U.S. Department of Labor last week asking for either an exemption for its home- and community-based Medicaid waivers or for an implementation delay of these rules.
• The administration is working with both Kansas and national stakeholder groups to both educate and organize consumers and their families on the impact of this rule.
• The Department for Aging and Disability Services will announce a nationwide call-in day, when all Kansans and Americans should contact the White House, U.S. Department of Labor, and Congress to weigh in on the new rule.
•The Governor has reached out to other governors across the country to share the impact this rule will have on Kansas and to explore ways we can join forces to push back on this federal over reach.
• His administration has asked both the Kansas congressional delegation and the Kansas Legislature to engage in this fight with by sending letters to the U.S. Department of Labor about the impact this rule will have on our state.