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REPORT: Penn. Nursing Homes Should Pay $15/Hour Wage

November 19, 2015

Pennsylvania should raise the wages of nursing home workers to $15/hour, a report from the Keystone Research Center (KRC), an economic and public-policy think tank, argues.

Nursing Home Jobs That Pay,” written by KRC Executive Director Stephen Herzenberg, makes the case that a $15/hour base wage for nursing home employees would improve both the quality of workers’ lives and the quality of care received by nursing home residents.

A $15/hour wage is “the best solution to end the taxpayer subsidy of nursing home operators, lift caregiving staff out of poverty, help rebuild the middle class, and improve care for residents,” Herzenberg writes.

According to the PHI State Data Center, nursing assistants in Pennsylvania earned a median hourly wage of $13.29 in 2014, down from an inflation-adjusted $14.03 in 2009.

“Industry Can Afford to Pay Living Wages”

The KRC report argues that Pennsylvania’s nursing homes could easily afford the wage raise. In 2014, the state’s nursing home industry brought in more than $400 million in self-reported profit, the report says, with a majority of industry revenue coming from Medicaid and Medicare.

“The industry as a whole can afford to pay living wages,” Herzenberg argues, “especially when you recognize that [a $15/hour wage] would be offset by savings from lower turnover and potentially other savings (e.g., lower prescription drug use and costs because a more stable workforce improves resident quality of life).”

A living wage would also help the state by reducing reliance on public benefit programs, the report says. Approximately one out of six Pennsylvania nursing home workers use public benefits such as food stamps to make ends meet.

Herzenberg’s report builds upon an April KRC report on Pennsylvania nursing home workers entitled “Double Trouble: Taxpayer-Subsidized Low-Wage Jobs in Pennsylvania Nursing Homes.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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