Insurance does not cover home attendants even when medically necessary. Our services paid for visits by trained nurses and home helpers for showering assistance twice a week, but for the 24-hour care prescribed by the doctor, we had to pay out of pocket. The summer after Brad came home, we spent over $ 21,000 on home care, tapping into my mom’s savings and inheritance to do so. We have been very fortunate to have these resources; for many families it would be out of reach.
It is often noted that the United States is the only rich country that does not offer maternity leave; support for childcare is also appalling. Likewise, but often in more invisible ways, we leave millions of caregivers with little or no support to deal with the financial, logistical and emotional challenges of helping sick parents, spouses and children.
The Biden-Harris campaign has made an ambitious care plan a key part of its platform. The first signs of the new administration are promising. Mr Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus emergency relief package includes measures for caregivers: expanding stimulus payments to cover previously neglected adult dependents, tax credits and paid family and medical leave. Some of these benefits would help caregivers of all kinds; others specifically help those caring for people with Covid-19.
While pandemic relief is the most urgent priority, the change should not end there. The plan Mr Biden rolled out during the campaign proposed an integrated approach to supporting child care, elder care, paid work and caregivers. Among other measures, it provided a tax credit of $ 5,000 for caregivers, social security credits for those who must leave their jobs to provide care and 12 weeks of guaranteed paid family leave.
The plan would also provide greater access to long-term care and home and community support services. Gaps in Medicaid coverage for these services have resulted in long waiting lists and made it more difficult for people to receive needed care at home.
Such changes would clearly benefit caregivers and paid workers, who are disproportionately women of color. With few job protections, homeworkers have long struggled to find stable, well-paying work, a situation made worse by Covid-19. Biden’s political team argued that his plan would create up to three million jobs in healthcare and education, benefiting populations hard hit by job losses from the pandemic.
The changes would not only help caregivers like me; what is good for caregivers also benefits those who need help. Expanding home care may prevent frail elderly people from accessing nursing homes, the drawbacks of which have been painfully exposed by the pandemic. Alleviating financial strain and caregiver burnout can mean better and more compassionate treatment, which in turn can improve quality of life and outcomes for our most vulnerable citizens.