The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) has released a new report urging comprehensive federal reforms to address the longstanding shortage of direct care workers in the United States. Highlighting challenges in recruitment and retention, the report emphasizes the critical role of these caregivers in providing essential services, particularly in the face of an aging population and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The shortage has tangible consequences, with nursing homes limiting admissions and home health care providers turning away patients due to staffing shortages. Delays in discharging patients from hospitals for post-acute care have risen, posing risks to patient health outcomes. As the demand for long-term services and supports (LTSS) grows, direct care workers play a pivotal role in providing essential assistance. However, inadequate wages, limited training opportunities, and the absence of standardized data collection contribute to challenges in the direct care workforce.
The BPC report identifies three major challenges: work environments driven by inadequate and stagnant wages and benefits, limited workforce programs, and insufficient data collection. Proposed solutions include reforms to enhance workplace retention, address shortages through domestic and immigration policy changes, and improve data collection for informed policymaking.
The report stresses the need for federal policymakers to invest in comprehensive reforms to stabilize the direct care workforce. Achieving gender and racial equity is integral, given the workforce’s composition of predominantly women, people of color, and immigrants. Policymakers have an opportunity to address the workforce shortage, advance equity, and fulfill the Supreme Court’s integration mandate in the seminal case, Olmstead v. L.C.
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