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Attorney General William Tong

05/14/2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG JOINS MULTISTATE LAWSUIT DEFENDING MEDICAID HOMECARE WORKERS

Attorney General William Tong today joined a multistate lawsuit led by California, to oppose the Trump Administration’s final rule that undermines Connecticut's 4,300 direct homecare workers who provide services to 15,000 Medicaid recipients each month through the state's Medicaid personal care services program.

In Connecticut, these workers have the right to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and training, which results in a more stable, quality personal care program for beneficiaries.

The new federal rule creates barriers for states to deduct employee benefits and union dues from workers’ paychecks. By doing so, it makes it harder for workers to stand up together for their workplace rights and to provide quality home and community based care to those in need. It puts at risk the 15,000 seniors and people with disabilities who receive assistance from Connecticut's Medicaid personal care services program.

"Homecare workers have dedicated their lives to helping the elderly and disabled by assisting them with everyday tasks such as bathing and dressing, grocery shopping and transportation. The Trump Administration's final rule would not only deny homecare workers the right to fight for basic workplace rights, but it would jeopardize the health and well-being of the 15,000 Medicaid recipients who rely on this program for assistance. We need to do everything we can to protect these workers and defend their right to organize and bargain for fair wages and benefits so they can continue to provide quality care to those in need," said Attorney General Tong.

On July 10, 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule to reinterpret Medicaid state payment requirements. The rule was primarily based on a supposed need to “eliminate a state’s ability to divert Medicaid payments away from providers.” Yet, the federal government provided no evidence to suggest that Medicaid payments were being inappropriately diverted.

Under state law, Medicaid in-home workers who are hired by seniors and individuals with disabilities to provide personal care services, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, and transportation, are authorized to collectively bargain.

Connecticut enacted legislation in 2012 that created the Personal Care Attendants Workforce Council, giving home personal care attendants the right to form labor organizations for collective bargaining with the state. The majority of Connecticut's home personal care attendants have elected to join the union and pay their union dues through payroll deductions.

Connecticut law specifically provides for deductions of union dues from the wages of personal care attendants pursuant to collective bargaining agreements, by a fiscal intermediary of the state.

The federal rule interferes with the state’s ability to deduct payments for worker benefits obtained through collective bargaining, like healthcare coverage or voluntary union dues, from homecare workers’ paychecks. This rule would disrupt well-established collective bargaining relationships authorized for decades by state labor laws.

Despite opposition from states charged with administering the Medicaid program and no hard data to support the need for such a rule, the Trump Administration acted to finalize this rule.

While the states could, in theory, avoid disruption to their state labor arrangements by foregoing federal Medicaid funding for personal care services, doing so would forfeit more than $6.5 billion in federal dollars, causing devastating harm to state healthcare budgets and eroding the states’ capacity to provide needed home care for seniors and persons with disabilities.

Joining California in filing the lawsuit are the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington.

A copy of the complaint is available here.
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