The Current and Future State of Caregiver Financial Burden


The Current and Future State of Caregiver Financial Burden


“Caregiving Economics: The Struggles & Solutions” was the theme of our #carechat on January 31st. We were delighted to have Dr. Ben Veghte with us to help our participants understand where the gaps are between adequate financial support for family caregivers and policy. During the chat, we uncovered how deeply rooted the lack of caregiver compensation goes and discovered what’s happening now that could help caregivers everywhere.

Dr. Veghte is the director of the Long-Term Services & Supports (LTSS) Trust at Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and the research director at Caring Across Generations. He is also the lead author on the National Academy of Social Insurance 2019 “Designing Universal Family Care” report. The LTSS is a social insurance and the first of its kind. Starting in 2022, Washingtonians in need of caregiving support and financial assistance for long-term care needs can receive up to $36,500 in benefits. Is this the future of caregiver financial relief across the U.S.? Check out the summary of our #carechat conversation with Dr. Veghte to find out.

#CareChat Interview with Ben Veghte

It is acknowledged that caregiving is not a partisan issue politically, but there is still a lack of funding for family caregivers, and paid caregivers are not given livable wages. What is missing? How do we close the gap?

BV: Going back centuries, there has been a division in Western societies where wage labor was done by white men and reproductive labor (everything necessary to keep a family going) was done by women and people of color. To get fair compensation for care work, care advocates and care worker organizations need to do messaging and outreach to work toward a paradigm shift where care work is no longer seen as private and unrelated to family economic security. Economists have been concerned about declines in labor market participation, particularly among women, since the start of the pandemic. Our economy can’t grow if talented women in the prime of their lives are forced to leave the labor market because care policy is inadequate. Wage labor was the public sphere and care work was the private, “unproductive” sphere. Changing this paradigm will not happen overnight.  We also know that there will be a shortage of care workers--paid and unpaid--in the coming years if we don’t increase compensation to incentivize more people to do care work. 

Can you explain what the LTSS Trust is and how this is a game-changer for family and professional caregivers in Washington? Were there any hurdles/roadblocks to making the Trust a reality? 

BV: In 2019, Washington State enacted the first universal long-term services and supports (LTSS) program in the United States. It works like Social Security: Virtually everyone contributes, and all who pay in for a sufficient number of years will be eligible to benefit. The contribution rate is about a half percent (0.58%) of wages. The benefit is up to $36,500 of lifetime LTSS. It supports families in three ways: It provides affordable long-term care insurance to all workers; It offers peace of mind knowing that care will be more accessible when it’s needed; And it gives people a choice regarding what kind of care they want as they age--family or professional care. 

What assumptions are being made about why people provide care that may create hurdles for compensation?

BV: It's hard caring for people outside our family, and it can be even harder caring for people we love. No one does care work unless they want to help people, but we should not assume that those who provide care do not need economic security and dignity. In Washington State our policies value care work including family care work. $16.72/hr is the starting wage for individual provider caregivers. This includes family members. A study by Metlife found that the average person who leaves the workforce early to care for an older family member sacrifices around $300,000 in lifetime earnings and retirement benefits.

You & Ai-jen Poo, director of Caring Across Generations, writing for The New York Times, suggest that Universal Family Care is the future. Why is that and how do we implement it nationwide?

BV: It is the future because the world in which men worked for money and women and people cared for their families for little or no pay is the past. As is the world in which only low-income families need support for their care needs. Families have changed. We are demanding greater gender and racial equity, and most families need all adults working to make ends meet. We cannot compete globally unless women can contribute to our economy to the fullest extent of their abilities. Demography too: The ratio of people of prime caregiving age to people likely to need care is declining from 7:1 in 2015 to 3:1 by 2050. If we don’t start valuing and compensating care, we will have a shortage of care workers and many older adults will suffer.

You may be wondering: What can I do to make Universal Family Care a reality in my state? You can encourage more care compensation in your state by sending your senators an invoice of your care expenses by using our Caregiver Salary Calculator. We encourage you to continue having these important conversations and sharing your story by joining us on the last Tuesday of every month for our Twitter #carechat, starting at 12pm ET / 11am CT.

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