More than 43.5 million family caregivers provide unpaid care annually to adults at any given point in time. Health insurance seldom pays for long-term care services and the government provides only limited coverage through Medicare and Medicaid.
Many people are unable to save enough on their own to cover the costs of long-term care. Today, the median cost of a one-year stay in a nursing home is $102,200 for a private room. Home care is less expensive but still costly: a visit by a home health aide can cost $4,385 a month.
This growing problem has caught Congress’ attention. The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee convened a hearing today titled “Caring for Aging Americans.” Among the participants was Kristina Brown, a medical school student at Yale University. In a recent Washington Post column, Brown described the heart-wrenching struggles – emotional, physical and financial – that she and her sister have endured while caring for their mother.
The burden of caregiving falls disproportionately on women and severely impacts their financial security. Women caregivers on average lose more than $300,000 in wages, Social Security benefits and retirement plans over a lifetime because of their time away from work providing care for a family member.
The American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) applauds Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal and other members of Congress for their leadership on these issues. As lawmakers look for solutions, they should consider ways to encourage more Americans to purchase long-term care insurance (LTCI).
LTCI allows individuals to pay for at-home caregiving services and respite care.
Greater LTCI coverage would ease the burden on unpaid caregivers. But only about one-in-ten households have LTCI.
The Federal Interagency Task Force on Long-Term Care Insurance is considering potential reforms to federal laws and regulations concerning LTCI. In August, ACLI and America’s Health Insurance Plans provided recommendations to the task force on how to expand consumer access to LTCI.
As America’s population ages, the burden on unpaid caregivers will increase. ACLI and its member companies stand ready to help.
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