Bipartisan legislation that would increase pay for home health and personal care workers across Maine for the first time in more than a decade won unanimous support Friday from a legislative committee.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee unanimously endorsed a bill that would increase the hourly Medicaid reimbursement rate paid by the state to home care agencies from $15 to $25. The bill is expected to increase home care workers’ pay from about $9 an hour, without benefits or mileage reimbursement, to as much as $15 an hour.

The amended bill, L.D. 1350, is the combined effort of House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and House Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, who submitted similar legislation.

“We are doing right by our seniors and those who care for them,” Eves said in a news release. “A stronger direct care workforce will also make it possible for seniors to stay in their homes and remain independent.”

Espling said the legislation would “ensure that services are available to our seniors so families have the support they need to continue to care for their loved ones in the comfort of their homes.”

The proposal to raise pay for home care workers is one of several efforts this legislative session to address the growing needs of Maine’s rapidly aging population, including affordable housing and family caregiver support.

Proponents say the pay increase is needed to attract and keep dedicated employees in a competitive job market where starting pay at some retail stores is now $11 an hour. The increase also would help trim long waiting lists for Medicaid-funded home care services and help save the state millions of dollars on long-term care.

The cost of caring for seniors in their homes is an average of 45 percent lower per person than the cost for assisted-living facilities and nursing homes, according to the Home Care & Hospice Alliance of Maine.

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