Home health care rally

Michael Richards of Moberly, Mo., speaks at a rally to urge Gov. Jay Nixon to back a proposed minimum wage hike for home health care workers. 

Home health care workers and their patients rallied this morning in downtown St. Louis as their union negotiates with state officials for a higher minimum wage. 

About 100 people gathered in front of the Wainwright State Office Building to ask Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to back a proposed $11 hourly minimum wage for workers paid through the state's Medicaid program. 

"Governor Nixon, raise our pay!" chants echoed throughout the morning as patients and workers took turns addressing the crowd. 

A spokesman for Nixon did not immediately return a voice message seeking comment. 

The Missouri Home Care Union is in the midst of collective bargaining negotiations with the Missouri Quality Home Care Council over the wage issue. Nixon appoints the council's members and his administration would be responsible for implementing the collective bargaining agreement. 

The current hourly minimum wage is $7.50 but home health care workers are paid an average of $8.60, according to the union.

Medicaid pays about $15 an hour to health care agencies for the in-home care provided by attendants. But the union says only about half of that makes it way to workers while the rest is spent on administrative costs. It says an $11 minimum wage would not require the state to spend more Medicaid money on in-home services.

Michael Richards, who attended the rally with one of his attendants from Moberly, Mo., said home health care workers deserve a higher minimum wage because of their difficult work.

"If their needs can be met then those of the people they take care of can also be met," he said, adding that home health care services has greatly improved his quality of life. 

This report was prepared in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.