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Hillary Clinton courts home care workers

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says the country should update the Medicare benefits package to encourage more use of home care, and to reduce the need for nursing home care.

See also: Medicaid to go after the home care market

“We don’t do enough through Medicare to help people get the care they need in their own homes,” Clinton said Friday in Los Angeles, at a meeting with home care workers. “We need to change how we provide long-term care and home health care.”

The policymakers who designed the current Medicare and Medicaid benefits packages believed that the best place for older people to be at the end of their lives was a nursing home, Clinton told the home care workers at the event, according to a video recording of the event posted on YouTube (which you can watch on the next page).

“Now we know that’s not the case,” Clinton said. “I believe we can come up with a better approach.”

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Older people with complicated medical problems may need to be in a nursing home, but other older people should be able to stay in their own homes up until that point, Clinton said.

Supporting home care helps improve people’s quality of life, and “it saves money,” Clinton said.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the group that organized the event, said home care workers, the people getting care, and the families of the people getting care all have a stake in improving home care workers’ pay and benefits.

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The workers themselves told Clinton that they work long hours for low pay, with meager benefits, and often struggle to make payments on the cars they need to get to clients, or even to pay for bus fare to reach their clients.

Artheta Peters, a home care worker in Cleveland, has been working as a care provider for 14 years and makes only $8 per hour. She said low wages affect her ability to pay for the necessities, such as rent, utilities — and life insurance premiums.

“I’ve gone three months without paying my life insurance,” Peters said. “I can’t find the money anywhere.”

Another home care worker, Sumer Spika of Minneapolis, said she had to go back to work five days after giving birth through a C-section because of lack of paid family leave benefits.

Clinton said she was shocked to hear about Spika having to return to work five days after having a C-section. ”That’s major surgery,” Clinton said. “We need paid family leave. We need paid sick days.”

Clinton said some in Washington oppose expanding those sorts of protections. “I would like them to walk a day in your shoes,” she said.

Clinton said improving support for home care workers has to be a major component of dealing with the coming increase in demand for support services for older people, and for people of all ages with serious illnesses and disabilities.

“I think our highest obligation to one another is to take care of each other,” Clinton said.

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