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How Arizona's new minimum wage will impact long-term care workers who already make more than that

Published: Wednesday, December 28, 2022 - 8:52am
Updated: Thursday, December 29, 2022 - 8:27am

In a few days, Arizona’s minimum wage will rise to $13.85 an hour. Other cities will see higher increases, but what does this mean for the direct-care industry — those workers who provide hands-on care to older adults and people with disabilities? 

COVID-19 led to wage increases for many paid caregivers — the folks who help bathe, dress, toilet and feed those in long-term care or group homes. That was good. But the minimum wage hike will likely do something else: It’ll raise the wage floor. 

Dave Voepel is the CEO of the Arizona Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes.

"So when you have somebody who goes up $1.05, the rest of the staff looks at that and says, ‘Well, they just got a pay raise, what about us?’"

So providers will increase everyone’s pay, he says. But that’s not easy to do.

Amy Robins is the director of advocacy at PHI, which focuses on improving direct care jobs.

She says because many providers are dependent on the reimbursement rates set by Medicaid and Medicare, "there's not the ability to say charge more for your goods in the case of Target or Walmart to be able to compensate for that higher wage," she said. "That doesn't apply in a in a public market like long-term care."

And Arizona has a growing number of older adults who will very likely need support from paid caregivers, which means providing a livable wage, which minimum wage is not, to support a strong long-term care system. 

"It's not a not a one-size fits all solution. It's not a, 'We invest this money here and then we're done,'" Robins said. "It's really complicated, long-term issue that states are dealing with, but I do see that they are dealing with them because really, they have to."

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