Sept. 17—The U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule Tuesday requiring minimum wage and overtime pay for home care workers, including healthcare workers.

The new pay requirements, which will affect nearly two million workers—including home health aides and certified nursing assistants—implemented a 2007 promise of President Barack Obama to such workers.

The Obama administration touted the move as a way to stabilize the high-turnover workforce and raise the professionalism of the home care workforce.

"Direct care workers play a critical role in ensuring access to high-quality home care that many people need in order to remain healthy and independent in their communities, and they should be compensated fairly for this important work," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a release.

The federal rules followed 15 states that already extend minimum wage and overtime requirements to such workers.

Federal officials said they responded to concerns raised when they first proposed the minimum wage increase by increasing flexibility and giving employers more time to prepare for the change. The requirements will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2015.

The rule specified that workers employed to provide company, visit, or engage in hobbies will not be eligible for the minimum wage requirements.

Home health industry officials have said most such providers already meet minimum wage requirements but do not necessarily offer 150 percent pay for overtime work.

Critics of the rule, first proposed by the Obama administration in 2011, warned that increasing home care costs could push seniors into institutional settings and increase costs for state Medicaid programs that fund much of the nation’s nursing home care.

The wage increases and overtime pay could cost as much as $182 million in the first year, according to a Labor Department estimate.

Publication Date: Tuesday, September 17, 2013