Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick One Signature Away From Health Care Mistake

Massachusetts is the latest in a string of states to transform private home health care providers into government employees. The disingenuous legislation will raise the cost of in-home care, while disrupting the personal work relationship between health care workers and patients.

On July 24th, the Massachusetts State Senate passed a bill to allow independent in-home child care providers to form collective bargaining units over vouchers they receive from the state. This follows the passage of the bill in the House, 115-32, in late May.

Massachusetts has no place interfering with business between an independent caregiver and a private individual receiving care. All independent caregivers are hired or fired by the patient. This bill, however, would allow Massachusetts to enter in as a third-party member and collectively bargain with the caregivers. If Governor Deval Patrick signs this bill, it will hurt all citizens of Massachusetts–the caregivers, children receiving care, and taxpayers.

Caregivers will likely end up paying more, as money is taken from their paychecks to support a union which has little to no control over their job situation. The bill explicitly states the caregivers will not be able to bargain for pensions or health care through the union. At present, the caregivers can already voice their opinions and advocate for higher voucher rates at the State House if necessary.

Further, this bill hurts the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in society—the at-risk and low-income children. If this bill passes and a collective bargaining unit forms, a union–acting as an unnecessary middleman–will be able to deduct a fee from the vouchers to pad their coffers. These vouchers help pay for child care and keep children out of more expensive institutional settings that come at an even higher price for taxpayers.

The taxpayers could also face more consequences if Massachusetts passes the bill. They may have to pay out-of-pocket to support the arbitration costs of collective bargaining between the state and care-givers. Taxpayers may also be forced to foot the bill for voucher increases. Massachusetts taxpayers have already indicated their resistance to such a proposal. In 2006, they voted down a ballot initiative similar to the proposed bill.

Worst of all, the bill could also infringe on the personal freedoms of Massachusetts citizens. Although the state representatives claim the legislation does not force workers to join a union, previous stealth unionization measures by states have led to unions entrapping care-providers.

In Michigan, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has been skimming union dues from home health care providers’ paychecks for years. In 2007, the union sent out ballots to all of the states caregivers, but less than 20 percent responded as the union ballot merely looked like an informational card and the majority of those who spent the time to look it over were those actually interested in joining a union.

If Michigan is any indication of what is to come, Governor Patrick could place himself in a dangerous position by signing the bill in to law. His signature would fail to please his constituents, and he would be increasing the government’s burden as a result of collective bargaining with workers who are not expressly state employees.