Proposed work requirements to Medicaid eligibility could result in some family caregivers losing their vital coverage, according to a recent analysis of Kentucky’s reforms by advocacy group Justice in Aging. Medicaid is vital to helping caregivers take care of their own health while caring for a loved one but depending on how states implement work requirements or defines “work,” family caregivers may end up losing their health insurance or face additional hurdles to keep it.
Caregivers are unpaid individuals like spouses, partner, family members, friends, or neighbors involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks. The selfless work they do for others in need is vital to the health and wellbeing of the individual and cannot be taken for granted or impeded by barriers that would cause widespread hardship.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, an estimated 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last year and of that number, 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the same time period. The majority of caregivers care for one other adult while about one in six care for two-adults. About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
On average, caregivers spend 13 days each month on tasks such as shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and giving medication, 6 days per month on feeding, dressing, grooming, walking, bathing, and assistance toileting, and 13 hours per month researching medical and financial information.
While males may share in caregiving tasks more than in the past female caregivers still shoulder the major burden of care. Almost three-quarters of caregivers are female and may spend as much as 50 percent more time providing care than males. Over half of female caregivers had a chronic health condition themselves.
While state Medicare work requirements include exemptions for those with disabilities and certain caregivers, some individuals with severe hurdles to work will not meet the criteria for exemptions or will struggle to overcome the administrative barrier to provide documentation that they qualify. Hopefully, state legislators will come to their senses and ease back on some of these work requirements and permit low income individuals to receive their healthcare and allow family caregivers to continue the selfless acts they perform for others.