Jul 29th, 2019

If We Don’t Advocate for Our Industry – Then Who Will?

CEO Jeff Wiberg with Cathy McMorris Rogers - home care

CEO Jeff Wiberg with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers

Last week, I had the privilege of being in our Nation’s Capital, advocating for home care and those we serve. It was a remarkable experience and my messages were well-received by our elected officials. Surprisingly and to my disappointment, among the cohort of home care industry executives that accompanied me, I was the only representative from the entire Pacific Northwest. The absence of colleagues from our region concerns me, given that advocacy work is ideally a responsibility shared by all of us. In fact, it’s one of the top reasons cited for joining the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA). More need to get involved. As the CEO of Family Resource, I am proud to consistently engage with state and national legislators to ensure the future health and prosperity of the families we serve and our home care industry’s ability to do so. I’ll politely step down from my soapbox for now and share more about the purpose for our visit to Washington D.C.

Our association gathered to advocate for the industry’s ability to continue to serve our clients. Sounds simple enough, right? A serious crisis is headed our way in home care. Currently, our industry suffers from chronic workforce shortages and we haven’t even begun to experience the peak of demand for our services. With Boomers turning 65 at a staggering rate, the bulk of the age wave has yet to hit the shores of the home care industry. The oldest of the Boomers turn 73 this year and we have another five years before the majority of this cohort has their first long-term-care need. If our industry is to be ready, we need to address two major issues:  affordability and accessibility. While in D.C., we urged members of Congress to address both of these fronts.

To address the affordability of home care services, we advocated for bi-partisan legislation that creates a tax credit for those funding either their own, or a dependent relative’s, home care services. You can read more about this bill HERE. The essential details include a tax credit for qualified home care expenses starting after $2,000 per person. After this floor, a taxpayer could claim up to $3,000 per year for 30% of the cost of long-term care expenses thereafter. This credit would offer relief to those who pay for home care, make it more affordable and encourage more people to choose home care – the option that has the least drain on government-funded programs.

A second way to address affordability is to pass House Resolution 2878 called the “Home Care for Seniors Act.” This bill adds qualified home care expenses as eligible for use under Health Care Savings Accounts. Read more about this bill HERE.  Inexplicably, at present home care services are not an allowable expense within an individual’s HSA. By making home care an eligible expense, it becomes “tax-advantaged” given that HSA funds are a pre-tax contribution. This solution would also encourage consumers to save for eventual long-term care expenses by fully funding their HSA. Given that seven out of 10 Americans will require long-term care, encouraging this type of preparatory behavior is good public policy. 

Finally, to address the access issues, HCAOA is advocating for Congress to support immigration reforms to allow for legal immigration of workers needed for the highest demand jobs. Home caregiver jobs are currently third on the Bureau of Labor Statistics list of fastest growing occupations. In the next 10 years, estimates show the need for an additional 1.2 million caregivers – an almost incomprehensible demand. Many of our caregivers at Family Resource are immigrants. Our exceptional employees work legally, are trained, proficient in English and, most importantly, we love them and value their incredible contributions to the lives of our clients! Our industry needs more exceptional, compassionate individuals to care for our seniors and employment-based immigration is one way to deal with this impending shortage.

Though I was the sole delegate from the Puget Sound, fortunately Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington arranged for meetings with their policy staff and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA 5th District) met with us. These excellent meetings were productive, and I regret that more industry representatives from our region didn’t get to attend or meet with their respective elected officials to express the need for support for our industry and especially for those we serve. Here’s to the next round of advocacy at which I hope more industry leaders will participate. In the meantime, it is with pleasure and commitment that Family Resource Home Care will use our strong voice to continue to advocate for our seniors and our communities.

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