As New York Home Health Aides Get Paid, Insurance Companies Leave Employers in Lurch

State-funded wage increases for frontline workers begin Saturday, but companies say insurers are withholding funds.

Uday Talwar

Home health aide Marilyn Thomas, pictured here in December 2021 serving lunch to her longtime client, Nancy Brown.

On Saturday, Adria Powell, president of the Bronx-based Home Care Cooperative, will finally be able to do something that home health advocates have long been fighting for: raise workers’ wages above minimum wage, backed by state funding.

But how US dollars will get to her company, New York’s largest home health agency owned by its workers, is something that puts her in a spiral of anxiety so intense that her doctor commented on her rapid pulse rate at a regular visit Thursday. “Well, we have a problem with the home care,” she said, as her pulse rate rose to 120 beats per minute.

Starting October 1, home health aides across New York state setting minimum wages will see a $2 increase in pay this year and another $1 next year, after an investment of $7.7 billion by Gov. Cathy Hochhol in the fiscal year 2023 budget. But Owners of companies that hire home health workers, including Powell, say they are not getting full reimbursements from the insurance companies managing the financing — or that the companies have not responded to their requests for rate adjustments.

In New York, state and federal dollars flow to pay for home health services through managed care organizations — private insurance companies — that negotiate reimbursement rates with individual home health companies. The home health companies then hire the workers and pay them to care for the sick in their homes or other facilities.

Managed care companies consistently keep their prices private or secret, lawyers representing workers in the industry say, leaving little transparency in one of the country’s fastest growing industries.

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