Brooklyn Law Review


Kim A. Aquino


The rapidly aging population, along with the demand for innovative Medicare delivery models such as bundled payment programs have incentivized the use of technology in healthcare because of its potential to cut costs and improve quality of care. Like many industries embracing technological strides to automate and digitize services, the healthcare industry has welcomed new labor markets like the platform economy to facilitate connections between patients and workers with ease. Along with streamlining connections, the platform economy also promises workers flexibility and autonomy over their own schedule. The platform economy’s promise of freedom, however, is not enough to prevent the ambiguous and narrow worker classification system under current labor and employment laws from pulling the safety net right out from under platform workers looking to make ends meet. The world has seen how the precarious work popularized by new labor markets like the platform economy has devastated the platform economy workforce, depriving workers of an opportunity to earn a livable wage. This note maintains that because the use of digital platforms will continue to grow in the industry, healthcare platform workers are susceptible to a similar financial fate to that in which Uber drivers and Taskrabbit-ers have found themselves. This note brings attention to the duality of the platform economy: its potential to create a new, narrow category of on-demand healthcare workers and its potential to exploit them. This note also critiques two potential solutions that address the platform economy’s pitfalls including expanding the antitrust labor exemption and redefining the definition of “employee” to include platform workers. Ultimately, this note proposes a solution as to how the healthcare industry can ensure fair compensation for a very narrow class of workers in a rapidly transforming labor economy. To that end, the U.S. government, through administrative agencies like CMS, should mitigate the wage issue engendered by the platform economy’s penetration into healthcare by expanding existing policies governing compensation to ensure a livable wage for the essential digital healthcare workforce.