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How Health Plans Help Support Family Caregivers

posted by Kate Gallagher

on November 3, 2016

National Family Caregivers Month starts this week, a time to honor the millions of people around the country who care for loved ones with health problems or functional impairments. The theme for this year is “Take Care to Give Care,” reminding caregivers that taking care of themselves is an important part of taking care of others.

Health plans support the well-being of caregivers, and offer many resources to help them get the information and support they need:

  • Online tools offer information and resources to help caregivers manage the care and support of their loved ones.
  • Partnerships with nonprofit organizations provide caregivers with a support network and additional assistance.
  • Many Medicare Advantage and Medicaid health plans offer respite care benefits, providing caregivers with time away to take care of themselves.

Two reports issued this year offer more recommendations on how we can support caregivers:

  • A report from AARP’s Public Policy Institute looks at how managed care programs can drive improvements to the care delivery system, such as more care coordination and support services focused on the individual and family. The report includes several examples of support programs for caregivers that offer great promise for the future.
  • A landmark report, Families Caring for an Aging America, provides a full landscape of caregiving for older Americans in the United States. The report, released by an expert committee convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, highlights the increase in older adults who are likely to need a caregiver over the next 30 years. It also offers several policy recommendations for how the health system can support this growing population of caregivers.

The report notes the increasing diversity among caregivers and patients, calling for more diversified person-centered and family-centered care solutions. This shift towards person-centered care is formalized in the 2016 CMS Medicaid managed care final rule and the 2014 CMS Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) final rule.

The industry will continue to advocate for policies that support caregivers’ wellness. One of the key recommendations in the National Academies’ report is for our nation’s next president to create and implement a National Family Caregiver Strategy. As a first step, the U.S. Senate approved legislation last year to establish the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act. AHIP has joined several caregiving advocacy organizations to call for passage of this legislation in the House of Representatives.

Kate Gallagher is Deputy Director, Federal Affairs at AHIP.