Legislation widely opposed by Connecticut’s homemaker and health companion companies was included in the budget passed by the House of Representatives Monday but did not receive a stand-alone vote in either chamber.
Passed out of the Human Services Committee, the bill language bans clauses in home care agency contracts that forbid a client from directly hiring their caretaker away from the company without imposing financial penalties.
The legislation was included in the budget, reportedly, over fears that the bill would not pass on its own in the Senate, and its inclusion came as a surprise to groups and companies opposing the measure.
Rep. Terri Wood, R-Darien, who voted against the bill in committee, said not holding a vote on the bill before combining it with other legislation “violated our foundational practice and process.”
“We should have absolutely had a vote on it,” Wood said. “That’s transparent government.”
The original bill was widely opposed by many home care agencies who say it will impact their ability to hire and maintain staff and will interrupt care services.
“Losing a caregiver through solicitation from an existing client significantly disrupts the balance of services the agency was initially sought to help manage,” Robert Scandura, owner of Right at Home in Wethersfield, which provides homecare services to seniors, wrote in testimony. “This effect is compounded when the caregiver works with multiple clients through the agency and is suddenly no longer available to provide care.”
Tracy Wodatch, president and CEO of the CT Association for Healthcare at Home, said in testimony that the bill would increase staffing shortages at home care agencies.
“Putting such a bill in place will simply make the home and community-based service needs more critical and more unbalanced—as it is, agencies are turning away cases daily as they don’t have enough staff to keep up with the referrals,” Wodatch wrote in testimony. “Rather than impose prohibitions on agency hiring contracts and fees to clients, it’s better to find ways to feed the workforce needs by building the pipeline.”
However, the bill was supported by Connecticut’s Department of Aging and Disability Services, the Department of Consumer Protection, the American Association of Retired Persons and the Arc of Connecticut, Inc, an advocacy group protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities, among others.
The advocacy groups say the legislation protects elderly and disabled individuals’ right to choose who cares for them and builds off prior legislation that banned non-compete agreements for home care agencies last year.
“This provides both care recipients and direct care workers with more flexibility,” wrote Anna Doroghazi, director of policy and outreach for AARP Connecticut. “The work involved in home care can be extremely personal, and it is important for care recipients to trust the workers who have access to their homes and bodies. If an LTSS recipient decides to hire a worker directly under terms that are agreeable to the worker, they should have the ability to do this.”
The House of Representatives voted along party lines to approve the budget deal on Monday, and it now goes before the Senate where it is expected to pass before being signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont.