Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
The majority of the city's home health care aides are earning poverty or near poverty wages, according to a new report from the health care advocacy coalition Alliance for a Greater New York. The report finds 62 percent of those surveyed earn less than $25,000 a year.
Vivian Wegman, 55, is a home aide who has been living with her patient in East New York, works 24-hours a day and earns $10 an hour.
She's paid by Medicaid, which only pays for 12 hours. Her contractor, Bhrags Home Care Inc., said the other 12 are supposed to be off the clock, but Wegman said that's not realistic in home health care
"This is like slavery," she said. "We're working and not getting paid."
She's part of the fastest growing industry in New York City, according to economists. But many advocates fear low wages are affecting the quality of care and the workers.
"The more experience you have generally, the much better job you do," said Carol Rodat, New York State Policy Director of the group PHI, which helped compile the report. "And that's why you want to be tuned in to what the wages are."
The high turnover in the city's home health care industry could be reduced with higher wages Rodat said.
The report notes that nearly a million New Yorkers will need a home health aide in the next few decades.
"There's growing demand for health care, so now is really the time to transform the system into one that works for both care givers and people who receive care," said Maya Pinto," a senior policy analyst at ALIGN, which released the report.