It's non-partisan, but not non-political -- clearly meant as a show of political muscle for HHAs. Should you take part? We asked a lawyer.
Politico reports the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare (which has the backing of several big names in home health, including Gentiva and Amedisys) and the Council of State Home Care Associations are collaborating on Bring The Vote Home, which is characterized as "a get-out-the-vote effort that could give the sector more political clout while allowing thousands of seniors to participate in the November elections."
Participating caregivers would help their patients make sure they're registered for the 2012 elections, get them absentee ballots if needed, etc.
Bring The Vote Home has a website, and their press release says they "hope to enlist millions of new voters from the home healthcare community and raise awareness of the issues impacting our patients."
Bring The Vote Home mainly connects patients with voter resources, but it's also sending around a questionairre to candidates, giving them "an opportunity to express their views about home health care." (Questions have not yet been revealed.)
Bring the Vote Home people say they're only interested in helping patients to vote, and "information and other assistance regarding registration or voting shall not be withheld or refused on the basis of support for or opposition to particular candidates or a particular party."
It's good citizenship, certainly, but is it a good idea to bring the 2012 campaign into the caregiver relationship, even at this level?
We asked Robert Markette of the law firm Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff in Indianapolis. He counsels HHAs that take part in Bring The Vote Home to be extra clear that they're helping patients exercise their franchise, not "delivering votes" for a specific candidate.
"You run a real risk of the perception that you're pressuring vulnerable adults to vote the way you want them to." He advises that if an agency is taking part in Bring the Vote Home, management "should say very clearly, in writing, to the staff that they're going to help the patients vote, but they're not to tell them how to vote."
Given that Bring The Vote Home isn't supposed to be partisan, Markette also questions the political impact of the program.
"I wonder if this really makes their voice louder, since it seems to be a get out the vote effort with no goal in mind," he says. "If you want to get attention in a state capital or on the Hill with a grassroots effort, you have to demonstrate a capacity to make something happen politically. You ought to be able to tell elected officials, 'We got the vote out and here’s what happened.' But if you can’t advocate for a candidate, you won’t have an demonstrable outcome."
Also, if you assume that the "pro-home-health" side is Democratic, you may be in for a surprise when the seniors mark their ballots, says Markette.
"Polls show that people in the age group that tends to be in home health care are going heavily for Romney," he says.