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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Illinois Home Services Program: ALERT for consumers and workers in the DRS Home Services Program

wanted to share from our colleagues at Access Living (cil) located in Chicago.

Dear Access Living friends and allies,
The following email is extremely important for consumers and workers in the DRS Home Services Program (HSP). Please read the following message VERY carefully and share with anyone you know who may be impacted.
For several months, Access Living and others have been in conversation with the state of Illinois concerning a new federal rule administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. The new rule, which will go into effect onJanuary 1, requires that personal attendants (also called PAs or home care workers) should be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. This affects every state in the country, which must wrestle with how to make this work. While we feel this is a validation of the hard work PAs do, if overtime is implemented badly, then both consumers and PAs are going to be hurt.
The state of Illinois has been considering a DRAFT policy that caps the number of hours PAs can work at 40, with three exceptions. PLEASE NOTE: The state has been careful to say that they are not looking to impact the number of hours of help that an individual consumer gets, but that the number of hours that PAs work need to be capped. However, capping the hours worked at 40 with three exceptions can still cause real problems.
The three exceptions for approved overtime would be: 1) for parent providers of PA service 2) for Exceptional Care cases and 3) for people who have Determination of Need (DON) scores of 70 or over. If you are not sure what your DON score is, check your HSP paperwork or call your DRS counselor.
Very few states have solid policies on overtime right now as the federal rule is still new. California has imposed a flat cap of 61 hours for PAs, no exceptions, which is causing tremendous stress for consumers and PAs. Oregon is considering a cap of 52 with some exceptions, including one for rural PAs since the worker pool is so small.
Illinois’ proposed cap of 40 could cause real problems for consumers who have PAs who work for more than one person, for more than 40 hours a week total. If the PA is forced to reduce the number of hours worked, which consumer will lose hours worked by that PA? Not to mention that PAs stand to lose income by having their hours capped, and PAs are hardly making a living wage in Illinois as it is.
Furthermore, the draft policy states that consumers who allow overtime by their PA more than 3 times will be forced to have home health agencies take over management of their HSP services. This is regardless of whether the overtime was accidental or unintentional. We have communicated to DRS that this is not acceptable.
DRS believes that this cap is important not only because of the federal rule, but because right now HSP is $47 million in the hole through June 30, so not allowing overtime except for a few cases will save money. However our understanding is that implementing overtime for January 1-June 30 would cost only around $4 million.
Access Living just last week had a conversation with a state official who assured us that the draft Illinois policy is NOT FINAL and that input would be sought from advocates before the policy is made final. The state is seeking to make the rule final before January 12, when the new administration comes into office. Interestingly, the federal rule will not be enforced until July 1.
We have however learned that at least one managed care company has informed an HSP consumer that the 40 hour cap is in effect, and that though the person has a parent PA who provides all support, that PA will need to cap at 40 hours and hire an additional PA to provide service. This is contrary to what Access Living has heard from the state. If this has happened to you or someone you know, please report it to me at asmock@accessliving.org ASAP.
Furthermore, we believe that HSP consumers and PAs deserve the right to let DRS know how they feel about the proposed policy. You may contact the Director of DRS, Dave Hanson, at david.hanson@illinois.gov. Again, DRS stated just last week that the draft policy is just a draft, and NOT FINAL. So he needs to know what should be in the final DRS overtime policy.
Please stay tuned as advocates continue to work on this important issue. We really need a healthy HSP system that does what it is supposed to do: provide consumer control and individualized support. Tens of thousands of consumers and PAs deserve better.
Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living

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