Many Medi-Cal Caregivers Live in Poverty: Study

UCLA study finds that most lack access to health insurance, adequate food

The majority of the state's Medi-Cal caregivers earn poverty or near-poverty wages and have poor access to health care and food, according to a UCLA study.

The study found that more than half of paid Medi-Cal caregivers have incomes that leave them in poverty or near poverty – with many making less than $22,000 per year.

"Hidden in Plain Sight: California's Paid Medi-Cal Caregivers Are Vulnerable"  is based on the 2009 California Health Interview Survey, which is administered by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and is the nation's largest state health survey. 

"Paid caregivers do a lot but get paid very little," Geoffrey Hoffman, the study's lead author, said in a statement. "They play a critical and complex role caring for our aging or disabled parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors yet can earn only a little more than minimum wage." 

The average monthly income for paid Medi-Cal caregivers just less than $2,000 compared with $4,222 for caregivers who were not paid for the assistance they provided. Low wages for these employees also means they are unable to afford enough food, and often health insurance, according to the study. 

This also results in high turnover rate for paid Medi-Cal caregivers, according to the study. Among paid Medi-Cal caregivers, nearly 16 percent were at their current job for less than one year and only about 18 percent had been at their job for more than 10 years.

"Cuts to state programs for seniors will come at the expense of California's seniors, but they will also harm paid caregivers," Hoffman said. "What is needed is more support for these economically vulnerable Californians so that they can take better care both of older care recipients and themselves." 

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