Good morning, ProviderNation.
In recent years, the inadequacy of the $7.25 federal minimum wage has been a painful reality at the kitchen table of too many families across our nation. Today, millions of people of all ages in communities across the country work full-time at minimum wage jobs, often at more than one job.
The Health Facilities Association of Maryland (HFAM) represents Maryland’s largest and oldest provider community of skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, which employ 24,000 people and care for 19,000 people daily.
On average, HFAM member skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers pay starting hourly wages of $9.27 for housekeeping workers, $9.11 for dietary workers, and $10.53 for certified nurse assistants. These key members of the care team ensure that our state’s most vulnerable population of older adults, rehab patients of all ages, and people with disabilities are provided with efficient and high-quality care on a daily basis.
The starting HFAM member wage, excluding higher wage earners in administration, is $9.64 per hour, and the average HFAM member wage with the same exclusion is $12.56 per hour. If HFAM were a state, measured by either starting or average wage, it would pay the highest minimum wage in the country.
Even today, about 70 cents on every dollar paid for care in our centers is used to pay wages.
That is why the board and leaders of HFAM voted to support a reasonable and sustainable increase in the minimum wage here in Maryland. It is simply the right thing to do. Recently, President Obama announced an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay at least a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour starting in 2015, and funding those contracts to support such a wage. Just as living wages are supported in the funding of federal contracts, so, too, must state and federal reimbursement rates be incrementally increased to support phased-in increases of Maryland’s minimum wage.
Like many states across the country, here in Maryland skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers are a powerful economic engine, with over $5 billion of annual economic impact, producing more than $100 million a year in various taxes. A phased-in, reasonable, and sustainable increase in the minimum wage in Maryland, supported by appropriately funded federal and state rates for care, will ensure access to quality care, set the stage for better care integration between hospitals and skilled nursing centers supported by appropriate staffing, and, most importantly, will create new jobs that are attractive to top talent.
The danger of an abrupt minimum wage increase without the support of adequate funding can have a detrimental effect on employers like HFAM members who already pay wages much higher than the minimum wage. Higher wages without sufficient support in the rate put quality care and job growth at risk.
There are some who eye an increase in the minimum wage with a view of scarcity: There is not enough to go around. And there are some who view it from abundance: Investing in people now will lift all boats. How much of an increase? When? We leave that to the smarter folks. We simply choose abundance: The time is now for a reasonable and sustainable increase in the minimum wage here in Maryland coupled with an investment in quality care.
Joe DeMattos is president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, which represents most of the state’s 233 skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers. He can be reached at: email@example.com.