Home health industry faces supply and demand problem
Faced with an aging population, the home healthcare industry in New Jersey and across the country is bracing for what could be its highest demand ever.
Both national and state policy, meanwhile, have focused on avoiding premature hospitalization, and keeping individuals at home with their families and loved ones.
There are approximately 30,000 certified home health aides in New Jersey, but industry officials claim that number may not be enough in the near future, and as aides themselves age, another obstacle is attracting new talent to the field.
"Our home health agencies want to make sure that we are able to hire and maintain an adequate workforce to meet the growing demand," said Chrissy Buteas, president of the Home Care Association of New Jersey. "You can never have enough caregivers and home health aides."
However, attractive wages are not easy to come by in the field. Buteas said Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rate cuts at the federal and state level have made it harder for agencies to provide a livable wage to workers. The group is in constant contact with policymakers in order to reverse the trend of underwhelming pay.
The median hourly wage for New Jersey home health aides in 2013 was $10.70, according to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute.
For those going through the process right now, Buteas added, New Jersey is dealing with "severe" certification delays.
"We're seeing anywhere between a 2-month and 3-month delay frequently," she said, noting the state is trying to address the issue.
Those looking to become aides require at least 70 hours of training before being certified.