Washington State November Ballot: Voting to Increase Caregiver Training to 75 Hours

Molly Schlanker, 3/1/2012

Washington State Initiative 1163 Increases Caregiver Paid Training to 75 Hours

Senior caregiving quality begins with the caregiver.  With this in mind, the state of Washington, in 2008, passed an initiative to require senior care companies to provide 75 hours of training to caregivers and to conduct a multi-state background check, along with a few other requirements.  However, the state of Washington delayed implementing the new law because they did not have the money to pay for the millions it would cost to implement and regulate the new requirements.

This week, on November 8, 2011, voters will cast their vote to authorize the state to begin these new requirements immediately.  However, opponents of this initiative say adequate caregiver training is already provided, along with quality background checks and it is simply the self-interest of one union that is advocating for these unneeded changes.

The Washington Long-term Care law, called Initiative 1163, was actually passed into law in Washington in 2008, but the state legislature opted to delay enforcing the law due to budget constraints.  The Service Employees International Union contributed more than $1 million dollars towards passing this initiative in 2008,  which would require caregivers to be paid for 75 hours of training.  What is missing, however, is how to pay for this training.  This is why the legislature delayed implementation, also noting that regulating this would cost the state more than $16 million a year.

Most senior care professionals agree that adequate training is already required by senior care companies in Washington state.  The SEIU union actually filed 19 initiatives with the Washington secretary of state’s office, all of them dealing with the state home care program which has 40,000 home-care worker union members.  The union was offering endless variations on the same proposition, apparently realizing that a way to pay for the added programs is going to be an issue.  One of their solutions is to implement a 35-cent cigarette tax or to add back property tax exemptions for private planes.

Senior home care agencies must perform background checks on caregiver employees already.  As important as background checks are active management of the senior caregiver are as important to make sure care quality is maintained.  All senior home care agencies do provide active care management.

The Seattle Times and nearly every newspaper in the Seattle area have opposed initiative 1163, reporting that the proposal has no revenue sources and presents a solution to something that is not a problem.  One special interest group, a union, has poured money into promoting an issue that would primarily benefit just their workers by giving them 75 hours of paid training.

It should be noted that senior home care agencies must obtain business licensing and provide necessary insurances such as worker’s compensation insurance and professional liability insurance and a fidelity bond.  Clients will not continue to work with agencies that do not provide high-quality caregivers.  The industry also is very competitive which has resulted in senior care companies developing extensive on-going senior caregiver training to keep up with all the various care needs for age-related illnesses.

Washington state, like many states, has suffered a decrease in tax revenues during the recent recession and has a budget deficit, leaving many to question the value of a law that will not bring in additional revenue and will cost millions.  The fact that a union is the largest supporter financially for passing this law, by more than a million dollars, highlights the necessity to always look behind the curtains. 

Many caregivers are already Certified Nursing Aides who have much more than 75 hours of training. Most caregivers with personal care experience also have much more than 75 hours of training.  As the need for senior caregivers continues to grow, quality standards will continue too, as a natural part of the very competitive market landscape.  Background checks and caregiver training already exist, with hands-on assistance and management by senior care managers for professional caregivers.  

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