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Home health care providers caught in personnel and financial binds

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 4:38 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) - Last March, we met Curtis McCormick and his professional caregiver, Joyce Alexander.

As the pandemic spread, they were both concerned, as Curtis was among the most vulnerable.

But now, home health care workers like Joyce and the company she works for face a critical financial bind as well.

“I would say we’re in a crisis situation here in Virginia, not only with not enough caregivers,” said Bill Hurt, AmeriCare Plus’ VP of Operations, “but you’re also looking at providers, small business owners going out of business.”

AmeriCare Plus is struggling like many other businesses to find workers to hire.

Because theirs is a one-on-one service, for every client they need a caregiver.

“We have over 50 people that are on a waiting list within our company,” Hurt said. “We need right now over 50 caregivers to hire, and that’s just for AmeriCare Plus. And I know that all my friends that are in the industry as well, they’re in the same boat.”

Meanwhile, in Richmond, state legislators have raised the minimum wage but didn’t increase Medicaid payments to match.

“We got a 92-cent reimbursement increase to compensate us for a $2.25 increase in the minimum wage,” according to Hurt.

It’s enough to drive as many as 70 companies out of the business.

“They’re just quitting,” he said.

The providers hope the state will advance federal money already allocated for home health care to cover their costs retroactively to last May, allowing them to stay in business.

“What that would allow us to do is to pay a competitive wage to our caregivers to be able to, number one, retain the people we have and to, number two, attract more caregivers,” Hurt said.

And as for Curtis? Joyce is still helping him stay at home.

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