Regulatory Changes Impacting Home Health Care Agencies

Posted on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 1:45 PM

The home health care industry has experienced an overload of regulatory changes throughout the last few years. These changes provide complications between state and federal regulations, especially since agencies need an understanding of both to remain compliant.

In some states, such as Illinois, regulations can even vary by county, making compliance even more burdensome, according to Aimee Delaney, Labor and Employment Practice Group Leader and Partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, who recently spoke at the Home Care Association of Illinois (HCAOA) conference in Lisle, Illinois.

Delaney addressed the following regulatory concerns impacting home health care agencies this year:
• Minimum wage
• Paid sick leave
• Illinois’ Freedom to Work Act

“When it comes to minimum wage, most of the action is taking place at the state or local level,” Delaney said. “The federal level can’t have much power in this case. The issue can be especially challenging in Illinois if you have business operations in multiple jurisdictions with different ordinances.”

The “Fight for 15” is a national movement to increase the minimum wage. The following states are making some progress:
• California and New York recently created a path to $15 per hour over the next three and five years
• Home care workers in Washington D.C. went through a legislative victory that increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour last summer
• Illinois is not far behind from increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022
• Chicago wages will increase fast, reaching $13 per hour by 2019

“The Fight for 15 movement is picking up traction all over the country,” said Delaney. “The question now is what will lawmakers do about it.”

Paid sick leave is another area that has seen a lot of change in 2017, and home health care providers may soon have to provide these benefits in certain regions. States that will be impacted by new paid sick leave regulations include California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Vermont, Delaney added.

Additionally, a new paid sick leave law will be implemented in Chicago on July 1, 2017. The law will cover employees who work a minimum of 80 hours in a 120-day period, resulting in employees being able to accumulate one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours per 12-month period. Employees don’t have to be full-time workers to benefit from this law, as long as they’re working at least two hours in a two-week period.

Illinois home health agencies have experienced several changes, from the Pre-Claim Review Demonstration (PCRD), which has now been paused, to the more recent Illinois Freedom to Work Act. The Freedom to Work Act went into effect on January 1, 2017, throughout the state, and ensures that workers making under $13 per hour do not sign a noncompete agreement with their employer, Delaney explained.

“The act means that an employer can’t make an employee sign a noncompete agreement, so employees technically can go work for a competitor or be stolen by a competitor without repercussions,” she said.

As regulations and laws shift, agencies need to stay on top of the changes to stay ahead of the curve and avoid any unnecessary legal troubles, Delaney added.

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