The Deficit Reduction Act (S.B. 1932), was recently approved by the House, after Senate approval in December. The legislation, which will impact many caregiving families, includes spending cuts in Medicaid and Medicare. States may now require higher out-of-pocket co-payments and premiums for Medicaid services. The bill also tightens rules for transfers of assets by individuals to obtain Medicaid coverage. Individuals with higher level of equity in their homes may not be eligible for Medicaid health care or long-term care services.
The FY2006 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (H.Rept. 109-337) passed in mid-December, increasing funding for family caregiver support programs by about $2 million.
There have been several other federal legislative initiatives in recent months. Senator Orrin Hatch recently introduced the Elder Justice Act (S.B. 2010), which includes a provision to create support programs to meet the needs of elders and their informal caregivers living in rural locations.
Representative Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the Caregiver Assistance and Relief Effort (CARE) Act (H.B. 3254) in July, which would amend the Older Americans Act to increase and extend the authorization of appropriations for the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) through fiscal year 2006. This legislation would also amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow caregivers a tax credit for family members with long-term care needs.
Also in July, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced the Alzheimer’s Treatment and Caregiver Support Act (H.B. 3642). If enacted, the bill would make grants available to public and nonprofit private health care providers to expand treatment services for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, including increased training opportunities and support services for families and caregivers.
Two other important pieces of federal legislation also have been introduced. The Healthy Families Act (H.B. 1902 and S.B. 932), introduced by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) respectively, would allow workers to have seven paid days of sick leave a year to care for themselves or to provide care for a parent or loved one. The Re-Entry Enhancement Act (H.B. 4202), introduced by Representative John Conyers (D-MI), includes a provision to eliminate the age requirement of 60 years or older for relative caregivers under the NFCSP. At the state level, the Virginia legislature adopted H.B. 1557 and S.B. 935, which extend the state Caregivers Grant Program until 2010. They also provide $500 grants to individuals who care for a physically or mentally impaired relative who requires assistance with two or more activities of daily living during more than half the year.
A California bill (A.B. 298) to extend the sunset date for an existing income tax credit for caregivers failed to move forward in the California legislature. Eligible family caregivers could previously receive a $500 credit for providing care to an individual with long-term care needs.
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