Earlier this year, implementation of the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act took place in Pennsylvania. This state law is designed to assist caregivers by requiring hospitals to identify and provide education to family caregivers when a care recipient is being discharged.  Additional explanation of this law was covered in this column in August. Thirty-nine states have now passed the CARE Act.

There are several bills currently under consideration at the federal level which are also designed to support caregivers.   Lawmakers are beginning to recognize the significant contributions which family caregivers provide for our society.  In addition, demographic changes are causing the pool of available family caregivers to shrink while our older population is growing. Paid caregivers are also in demand.  Assistance for family caregivers and incentives which make long-term care services more a more attractive field for employment will contribute toward averting a pending care crisis for older adults.   Here is a brief summary of the bills currently under consideration.

The RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, Engage) Family Caregivers Act was introduced in May of this year and was passed by the Senate (S. 1028) in September. The House of Representatives is still reviewing this bill (H.R. 3759), which is designed to establish a Family Caregiving Council which will assist in the development of a Family Caregiving Strategy.  The goals of this strategy are to recommend actions which will improve the recognition and support of family caregivers. These actions will be the responsibility of all levels of government as well as both short and long-term care service providers, and will focus on:

  • the promotion of person and family-centered care
  • improved assessment and care coordination services
  • increased education and training about care provision and processes; including hospice, palliative care, and advanced care planning
  • options for respite care
  • reducing conflict for working caregivers and improving their financial security

The Credit for Caring Act of 2017 was also introduced in May of this year, and remains under consideration by both the Senate (S. 1151) and the House of Representatives (H.R. 2505). This act seeks to establish a nonrefundable tax credit for working family caregivers.  The current House version of the bill seeks a credit of 30% of incurred qualified medical expenses over $2,000 paid by a caregiver for a care recipient; provided the caregiver’s adjusted gross income is below the threshold of $75,000 (single return) or $150,000 (joint return).  A credit will be available for those with incomes above the threshold, but certain adjustments will be made. The act identifies specific criteria which an individual must meet to be considered a qualified care recipient (child or adult), and also defines the items/services which are included as qualified expenses.

The most recent care related bill introduced in the House of Representatives is H.R. 3494, which calls for the establishment of a National Care Corps. Introduced in July, this bill would create a national service program designed to train volunteers to care for older and disabled Americans in ways which promote their ability to remain independent.  This program would benefit older and disabled adults by increasing the number of available caregivers in home and community settings.  Volunteers would be provided with health insurance, financial assistance with educational costs or loans, and other benefits during their time of service.

For additional information about these bills, visit www.congress.gov and search under current legislation for each specific bill number. Sharing your thoughts about these bills and your experiences with our current health and long-term care system will help our state and federal legislators to better understand how current services are operating and what improvements/changes are needed.  This knowledge will guide their decision-making during discussions about each bill and influence their vote to support or reject these proposals.

Karen Kaslow, RN, BSN