Monday, January 22, 2007
Local long-term care officials have joined a statewide call to raise Medical Assistance reimbursement rates for nursing homes and other care services by 5 percent in the next state budget. Members of the Coulee Region Long-Term Care Workforce Coalition in La Crosse met Friday in La Crosse with state Rep. Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, to push for the increase for personal care, home health and other community services. Huebsch, the Assemblyâs majority leader, said he is aware of the problems with long-term care and would have to look at the proposalâs financial ramifications. Two priorities for the biennial budget, he said, will be public education and taking care of people who canât provide for themselves. "We're nearing a crisis again in long-term care, and we need a comprehensive look at the problem and plan for the future, because baby boomers will increase the need for this care," Huebsch said. Members of the workforce coalition are concerned about the quality and consistency of care when personal and home-care aides make low wages. They said some workers have trouble paying bills and wind up leaving for higher-paying jobs. That can make home care inconsistent because vacancies are hard to fill. The average salary is $8 to $9 an hour for staff at Independent Living Resources, which provides personal and home care services in the La Crosse area, said Kathy Noble-Iverson, the agencyâs executive director. Staff have not received a raise since 2002, when Medical Assistance rates last were increased, she said.