Family Caregiver Supports in Medicare Advantage Plans: New Opportunities for Person- and Family-Centered Care
Medicare Advantage—the private plans that cover one-third of Medicare beneficiaries—has new flexibility to offer more supplemental benefits. Importantly, among those benefits are services and supports for family caregivers.
High-profile issues that make daily headlines currently are occupying much of Congress’s attention. Yet one important issue is receiving little to no attention: the Older Americans Act. If Congress does not act, this legislation, which was last reauthorized for three years, will expire on September 30.
We live in a world of innovation. New technology is changing how we connect with friends, learn, work, play—and even obtain health care. Telehealth, a set of tools both old and new, allows clinicians and home-based patients to communicate with each other via video-conference, email, or just an old-fashioned telephone call. Newer tools enable clinicians to receive clients’ data (e.g., vital signs) and assess their status through remote monitoring devices.
A major demographic shift is happening. The ages 85+ population is projected to triple between 2015 and 2050. In comparison, the population younger than age 65 will increase by only 12 percent.
AARP led a group of 75 organizations yesterday, calling on Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar to implement the bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act. In a RAISE Family Caregivers Act HHS Implementation Group Letter June 2018 Final , the organizations write, “Millions of individuals count on family caregivers every day. Family caregivers are counting on implementation of this commonsense law.” The RAISE Family Caregivers Act, which passed Congress with overwhelming support and was signed into law by President Trump on January 22, requires the Secretary of HHS to develop a strategy to support family caregivers within 18 months of the law’s enactment – the clock started ticking five months ago. According to the new law, the Secretary must:
In addition to advocating for older Americans in the halls of Congress, AARP staff and volunteers are working on the ground in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to make a difference in people’s lives through advocacy. This year, we have helped enact state policies to support more than 30 million family caregivers and provide thousands of workers with a new way to save for retirement.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s also remember that November is National Family Caregivers Month – a time to recognize and express our appreciation for America’s 40 million family caregivers. They are truly the backbone our care system, helping aging parents, spouses, and other relatives and friends manage chronic conditions and disabilities.
With more than 60 percent of America’s 40 million family caregivers balancing their caregiving responsibilities with paid employment, there is a pressing need for employers to do more to support employees who are also caring for loved ones. In fact, according to a survey AARP conducted with the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), an overwhelming majority of the company benefit managers – 82% – say that family caregiving will become an increasingly important issue for their companies over the next five years. That is why AARP is partnering with NEGBH to help employers assess their company culture and develop strategies and policies to create a caregiver-friendly workplace.
Most of us will need long-term services and supports (LTSS), either for ourselves or for our family members. However, most of us do not know about our options and how to pay for these services. That is why the LTSS State Scorecard — created by the AARP Public Policy Institute and funded by the Scan Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund — ranks states on their aging and disability resource centers. These centers are an important feature of a high-performing LTSS system.
This week, the U.S. Senate began its consideration of the RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage) Family Caregivers Act — an important piece of legislation that would start a national conversation about ways to aid Americans’ greatest support system — family caregivers. Thanks to the leadership and support of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the bill was quickly approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee (which goes by the very appropriate acronym . . . HELP).
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