The state legislature voted this week to approve one complex plan That would increase the pay of frontline workers caring for older adults and people with disabilities.
The plan stems from a bill passed earlier this year that included guidance to the State Department of Health (HCPF) running Colorado’s Medicaid program for people on low incomes and people with disabilities. With Senate Act 21-286, called on state lawmakers to come up with a proposal on how federal pandemic aid money – sent to Colorado through the American Rescue Plan Act – could be used to expand and expand Medicaid’s home and community-based services to enhance.
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On Tuesday, lawmakers in the Joint Budget Committee voted 5-1 to adopt the department’s proposed plan, which would, among other things, increase pay for direct caregivers. Colorado’s direct care staff includes the home health workers, personal care assistants, and certified nursing assistants who provide home or community services to Medicaid patients in need of long-term care.
The HCPF’s plan aims to achieve the raise by using $ 262 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to increase the rates Medicaid pays to the health care providers who employ direct caregivers for home and community-based services. HCPF intends to conduct “financial compliance reviews” in accordance with the Plan documentto ensure that the additional funds are channeled through the providers to the workers themselves.
In a statement Tuesday, Governor Jared Polis’s office said the pay increase would allow a minimum wage of $ 15 for direct caregivers.
“Colorado has one of the fastest growing aging populations in the country, so it is important that we recruit and retain caregivers today and for years to come,” Polis, a Democrat, said in the statement. “In Colorado, we value our employees, so I fully support the transition to a minimum wage of $ 15 for nurses.”
As soon as the federal money has been used up, the legislature must intervene in the state budget if it wants to maintain the higher provider tariffs.
Rep. Kim Ransom, a Lone Tree Republican, was the only “no” vote on the voluminous proposal.
“I’m always concerned about the administrative burden,” she said before the vote, questioning the breakdown of overhead spending versus services.
But Ransom and others spoke out in favor of a workforce that, despite the difficult care work, earns historically close to the legal minimum wage.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced closings last year, direct care providers were hit. To balance the budget amid the pandemic recession, lawmakers cut fees for Medicaid providers by 1% in 2020 before increasing them by 2.5% in the 2021 legislature.
The average hourly wage for a domestic or personal hygiene helper was $ 13.50 in Colorado Springs, $ 13.96 in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area, and $ 14.32 in Fort Collins as of May 2020, the data said of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meanwhile, nursing assistants were paid an average hourly wage of $ 15.53 in Colorado Springs, $ 16.25 in Fort Collins, and $ 17.32 in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood Metro.
The Denver minimum hourly wage is now $ 14.77 and will increase to $ 15.87 in January. Elsewhere in Colorado the minimum wage is $ 12.32.