AAFP Presses House to Act on Family Caregiver Bill

September 13, 2016 10:31 am News Staff

Patients battling chronic disease need to see their physician, but many cannot get to their medical appointments without the help of a caregiver -- most often, a relative.

[Couple visiting woman in hospital bed]

These family caregivers must be supported, so the AAFP joined 53 other organizations in a Sept. 6 letter(3 page PDF) to House leaders, urging action on a bill that would do just that.

An estimated 40 million people provide some form of unpaid care to family members or loved ones, and that number is expected to double by 2050. Financial and social services that could assist them are sorely lacking. The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act would require HHS to develop a national strategy to support these caregivers, beginning with formation of an advisory body of public and private sector appointees who would identify policies that government agencies and employers could adopt.

The bill passed the Senate in December but has yet to be approved by the House. If the House does not act during the current session, the legislation would have to be reintroduced again in the Senate next year.

Read a new report titled Families Caring for an Aging America from the National Academy of Sciences.

The joint letter, which was sent to House leaders from both parties and to members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, presses the House to take up the legislation this month. The organizations reminded legislators that many older adults, people with disabilities and veterans depend on family caregivers to help them continue living in their communities and access services.

"Our country relies on the contributions family caregivers make and should recognize and support them," the letter stated.

The bill recognizes the heavy commitment that family members and caregivers make. Caregivers who are paid receive an average of just $13,000 annually, and family caregivers often need to take time off from work to care for a relative.

"By supporting family caregivers, we can help people live at home where they want to be, helping to delay or prevent more costly care and unnecessary hospitalizations, saving taxpayer dollars," the letter stated.

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