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Washington’s Minimum Wage Hike Leads to Massive Layoffs for Health Care Workers

One of the highest minimum wages in the US is in Washington State, where it will rise to $16.28 per hour for workers sixteen years of age and over in 2024. Although this could appear to be a good thing for low-wage workers, the health care industry, which is dealing with a severe labor shortage and an increase in service demand due to the COVID-19 epidemic, has not been prepared for these unforeseen repercussions.

In response to rising labor expenses and the difficulty in finding and keeping skilled employees, some health care providers have been compelled to reduce staff, cut hours, or close locations, according to a new report from the Washington Health Care Association (WHCA).

Impact on Health Care Workers

A total of 120 healthcare facilities, including assisted living facilities, home health agencies, hospices, and nursing homes, were polled for the WHCA report throughout the state. According to the survey, as a result of the minimum wage increase, 76% of the facilities had cut workers, 58% had cut hours, and 12% had closed or intended to close in 2024.

Additionally, the analysis projected that in 2024, the increase in the minimum wage will lead to the loss of 12,000 health care jobs, primarily affecting direct care workers including personal care aides, certified nursing assistants, and home health aides. Since the elderly, disabled, and chronically ill are among the groups most susceptible to COVID-19 and its complications, these personnel are crucial to the provision of high-quality care and support to these populations.

The report also emphasized the difficulties the state faces in drawing and keeping medical professionals, particularly in rural areas where living expenses are lower and the minimum salary is higher than the going rate. According to the survey, in 2024, 82% of the facilities reported difficulty filling openings, 74% reported higher turnover, and 68% reported higher use of temporary or agency labor. The report linked these issues to health care workers’ lack of access to competitive pay, benefits, and career possibilities, as well as their higher risk of COVID-19 exposure, stress, and burnout.

Impact on Health Care Quality and Access

The WHCA research claims that the increase in the minimum wage has also had an impact on the state’s health care system’s accessibility and quality. According to the research, in 2024, the increase in the minimum wage resulted in 72% of the facilities reducing the quality of care, 66% reducing the quantity of care, and 54% reducing the availability of care.

The research also stated that as more low-paid workers were eligible for Medicaid and sought primary and preventive care, the increase in the minimum wage had boosted the demand for health care services. But fewer providers could afford to take Medicaid or give treatments at a loss, hence the availability of health care services has declined.

The state’s citizens’ health and well-being, particularly that of the elderly, disabled, and chronically ill populations who depend on health care professionals for basic necessities, might be seriously impacted by the minimum wage increase, the report said.

According to the paper, raising the minimum wage may result in a rise in these populations’ hospital admissions, ER visits, infections, falls, injuries, and fatalities as well as higher expenses and liabilities for the state and the health care system.


The 2024 increase in the minimum wage in Washington State has hurt the healthcare industry, which is already dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Increases in the minimum wage have resulted in widespread layoffs, shortened workweeks, hospital closures, and a decline in the number, quality, and accessibility of healthcare services.

In addition to raising the minimum wage, there is a scarcity of healthcare professionals, who are crucial in providing care and assistance to the state’s most disadvantaged people. Thus, the increase in the minimum wage has hurt the state’s healthcare providers as well as patients, and it may have long-term effects on the state’s economy and general health.

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