As part of SiX’s 2018 #FightingForFamilies Week of Action, Michigan Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), wrote a guest blog on the importance of supporting our country’s aging population by improving access to long-term care for seniors and ensuring caregivers are paid fair wages.
By Michigan Rep. Jon Hoadley
By 2030, Michigan’s senior population will double, meaning that in just over ten years, one in five Michiganders will be over the age of 65. Those shifting demographics are not unique to Michigan, of course; in every state, the number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age is in-creasing the percentage of older adults and increasing the potential long-term care needs of our country. If we want a state where families and communities truly thrive, the coming decade presents an opportunity organizers, advocates, and elected officials to build the kind of care infra-structure that works for seniors, people with disabilities, paid care workers and family caregivers, and Michigan is at the forefront of building the systems we need. During the State Innovation Exchange’s Fighting for Families Week of Action, it’s crucial to recognize that fighting for families means supporting our country’s aging population, and family member’s ability to secure paid leave to care for ailing parents and grandparents.
To make the strongest case for the policy changes that will ensure that all seniors have access to affordable long-term care, it was clear to me that we first needed to gather comprehensive data about the current state of care in Michigan, and that we needed to model the proposed benefits programs against that data to create something robust and economically sustainable. This legislative session, the study bill I introduced as a member of the Michigan House has won support from both sides of the aisle, and if it passes will present our legislature with long-over-due analysis of the state of aging in Michigan and offer possible paths forward.
Perhaps most important to me is creating a system in the coming years that allows seniors to remain in their homes as they age, rather than moving to care facilities or nursing homes. There is certainly a need for those facilities, of course, but far too often, seniors wind up in those set-tings as a result of a failure in the care system. Medicare, the program that helps older adults meet their health care needs, generally does not pay for home and community based long-term care —but it does pay for care in a facility. Too many families are forced to choose between remaining at home and paying out-of-pocket for home care, or moving to a care facility, where Medicare pays the bill but where seniors are often not nearly as comfortable as they were in their own homes. A key component of the new system we must create is ensuring that caregivers are paid a fair wage. The work of caregiving must be treated with dignity and respect, which means ensuring that paid caregivers earn enough to provide for their own families as they take care of others.
Other states are beginning to take on these care challenges, too. In Hawaii, the Kupuna Care-givers program took effect last year, which helps provide a care benefit so that family caregivers can remain in the workforce and ensure their parents receive the home care services they need. And the Washington legislature just held hearings on a proposal to create a long-term care in-surance program, to create a sustainable and universal guarantee of access to long-term care as Washingtonians age.
Instead of waiting for federal solutions, Michigan is helping imagine new ways to meet the needs of our changing population. As our work continues, I hope to be able to work with legislators across the country to apply what we’re learning in more and more statehouses over the coming decade.
Michigan Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) is currently in his second term representing Michi-gan’s 60th House District.