New presidents bring policy changes, and Biden’s administration is no exception.
Biden seems acutely aware of America’s aging population and the economic disparities that complicate their care.
First outlined during his presidential campaign, “The Biden Plan For Mobilizing American Talent And Heart To Create A 21st Century Caregiving And Education Workforce” is an acknowledgment of both the growing home care and child care crises in the United States.
It then delves straight into strategies to combat an aging population’s need for quality, dignified assistance.
Benefits of the New Plan
A Much-Needed Increase in Caregiving Jobs
With the increasing demand for home care, agencies are in constant need of more caregivers.
Home Health Care News states, “In order to keep up with their demand for home care services and general preference for aging-in-place, the home care industry will likely need to fill at least 4.2 million more caregiver jobs by 2026.”
Biden’s plan, which will expend $775 billion over 10 years on caregiving and early childhood education combined, intends to increase the number of caregiving jobs by 1.5 million.
It may not be enough, but it’s a start.
An increase in caregivers also allows non-paid family caregivers to return to the workforce—a void that can be marketed and staffed by home care agencies.
A Boost to Working Conditions
Recruiting caregivers in a historically underpaid and underappreciated environment can feel like an uphill battle.
By expanding existing, though often exclusive, state legislation, Biden and Harris are using the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act to help caregivers unionize, receive benefits, and earn higher wages.
According to Caring Senior Service, “Biden also hopes to expand opportunities for caregivers to receive further training or credits to help them expand their skills and advance as professionals.”
By standardizing and improving job quality and expectations, caregiving can become a more desired career, and elderly patients will benefit from increasingly qualified, better-supported caregivers.
More Home Care Opportunities and Clients
Despite an exponential need, accommodating home care isn’t necessarily easy.
According to NPR, “…41 states have waiting lists for home and community-based health services, totaling nearly 820,000 people, with an average wait of 39 months.”
Additionally, Medicare can be far too limited. “Medicare covers home-based health care services only for older adults and people with severe disabilities who are homebound and need skilled services from nurses and therapists.”
The Biden plan aims to loosen this bottleneck by increasing Medicare funding to states and expanding access to non-medical home care coverage. Verbiage from the plan indicates:
“Biden will allocate $450 billion to give more people the choice to receive care at home or in supportive community situations or to have that choice for their loved ones. He will help states offer cost-effective options for affordable primary and preventive care, and affordable support services like help with meals, transportation, home safety, and quality day programs for older Americans.”
As these changes come into effect, home care agencies can soon step in to fill the need of those seeking at-home care.
Possible Negative Ramifications for Home Care Agencies
With happier caregivers, home care agencies will find a greater abundance of willing caregiver candidates. Also, with an increase in elderly clients, business for Home Care agencies should be stable for the foreseeable future.
But there remain possible hiccups.
According to the Washington Post, “…many experts in long-term care worry even the hefty price tag is not sufficient to prepare the nation — and particularly middle-class families — for the coming boom in the number of elderly Americans.”
NPR reports: “Even advocates of Biden’s proposal acknowledge it doesn’t address the full extent of care needed by the nation’s rapidly growing older population. In particular, middle-income seniors won’t qualify directly for programs that would be expanded.”
It’s clear Biden’s plan may not be enough to completely eradicate the caregiving shortage our nation is facing. Middle-class families may fail to see any improvement at all.
Despite good intentions, a lot of work remains.
The Drawback of Unions and Increased Regulations
While unions, increased benefits, and improved wages greatly benefit caregivers, home care agencies may struggle to adapt to the resulting budget changes.
Additional regulations, like predictive scheduling and modified caregiver contracts could also deal a significant blow.
According to Home Health Care News, “…non-solicit and direct hire clauses in caregiver contracts can be crucial for in-home care providers.”
These clauses protect home care agencies from becoming inconsequential or obsolete. This can be a disadvantage to everyone, especially when agencies work hard to offer a protective, professional middle-ground between caregiver and client.
The same article states: “Predictive scheduling would be tough for home care providers, given the volatility of each patient situation. It essentially mandates giving out schedules to caregivers beforehand and requires payment of penalties for any modification to that schedule.”
Again, while these changes may be advantageous to caregivers, they may not be in the best interests of patients or home care agencies. An alternate solution, while difficult to pinpoint, may prove more beneficial as a whole.
Community-Based Solutions vs. Home Care
Biden’s new plan also supports an increase in community-based services—more affordable alternatives to home care. While these services don’t qualify as nursing homes, they may reduce home care opportunities.
This push for more community-based care includes improved staffing at Veterans Affairs facilities. Biden’s goal is to: “Create tens of thousands of jobs providing care to veterans by filling severe occupational shortages and vacant positions at almost every U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facility.”
Home care agencies may find an opportunity for caregiver staffing at these proposed sites. Otherwise, it could hurt business.
A Crisis Identified—with Hopeful Solutions
Throughout this administration, everyone impacted by the legislation will need to remain vocal about their newfound struggles and successes.
The issues surrounding home care will likely remain complicated. But they will need to remain one of the nation’s top priorities—with the government working diligently to refine solutions.
Overall, Biden’s plan is a progressive attempt to tackle the issues that have become increasingly crucial—if not a nationwide emergency.
We can hope that patients, caregivers, and home agencies alike soon benefit.