Home care workers will receive a modest hike in their hourly pay thanks to changes in the recently enacted state budget. Their wages will increase by $2 an hour on Oct. 1, and by another dollar per hour one year later.

While the hike in wages isn’t linked to the Medicaid reimbursement rate in the manner that the “Fair Pay for Home Care Act” would have done, it will be linked to the minimum wage. With the minimum wage in upstate New York eventually rising to $15.00 an hour, advocates project that wages for home care workers could go from $13.20 an hour to $18.00 per hour over the next three years.

But according to Jeanne Chirico, president and CEO of the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State, there is not much clarification on how or if the state will reimburse providers of hospice care who employ home care workers.

“Hospice is required to provide home health aide services to our patients whenever there is a need in the home and we would be required to pay that increased minimum wage, as well,” Chirico explained.

Hospice providers in New York state, most of which are not-for-profit, are already operating on the slimmest of margins, between 1% and minus 1%. While hospice providers will not receive any reimbursement, other kinds of providers, including those who bill Medicaid directly or through a managed care organization, will receive a reimbursement.

While Chirico guesses this change was simply an oversight, she and other hospice advocates are now pushing for three bills that will ensure that hospice isn’t overlooked again.

One bill, A.8880/S.8205, sponsored by Assemblymember Monica Wallace and Senator Michelle Hinchey, would establish a statewide advanced care planning campaign to promote public awareness of hospice and palliative care services. A second bill, A.8881/S.8206, sponsored by the same lawmakers, would establish the office of hospice and palliative care access and quality within the Department of Health.

A third bill, A.8006/S.7626, sponsored by the chairs of the Health Committees in each house, would authorize residents of assisted living programs to receive hospice services, if they so choose.

“It’s time that the state and the people of this state recognize that this benefit, if we want it to continue to be provided in New York, needs some assistance,” Chirico said.