New grant awarded to explore health coverage for home care workers

New grant awarded to explore health coverage for home care workers


A new grant issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will help identify routes to providing health insurance coverage for uninsured home care workers and their families. The Foundation awarded Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation’s largest health care union, with funding effective July 1, 2002, to develop replicable models of insurance coverage for home care workers in the United States.

“It’s a national disgrace that those who provide care to our loved ones in their homes are left without access to health care themselves,” said SEIU President Andrew L. Stern. “Health coverage for caregivers is essential to reducing turnover and improving the quality of home care in America.”

In particular, the research will build on SEIU’s experience in developing coverage for its home care members in New York and California. With the funding provided, SEIU will convene a national task force of experts, and contract with researchers who will be charged with developing health insurance models that specifically address the health insurance needs of home care workers.

Illinois will be a particular focus of the research and public education campaign that will accompany the development of insurance models. Previous research conducted in Illinois found 58 percent of Illinois home care workers under age 65 are uninsured.

“Many caregivers love their work but have to leave for other jobs to get health coverage,” said Helen Miller, president of SEIU Local 880. “Lack of health care coverage causes huge turnover and puts the entire home care program in jeopardy in Illinois.”

Previous research on health coverage among home care workers found that 33 percent to 45 percent do not have private health insurance. That’s much higher than the national rate of uninsured working age persons, which is 16 percent. There are one million people working as home care aides in the U.S. It is the fastest growing health care sector job and the eighth fastest growing occupation (the first seven are computer-related jobs) in the U.S.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grant making in four goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to basic health care at reasonable cost; to improve care and support for people with chronic health conditions; to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse—tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.

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