President Joseph Biden’s $400 billion plan to upgrade the nation’s caregiving infrastructure could include ways to help middle-income Americans pay for long-term care through Medicare of Medicaid. That word came Tuesday from congressional Democrats on the Task Force on Aging and Families.

Headshot of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

‘We may be looking to see if people can have more assets to qualify for long-term care (through Medicare of Medicaid). The language is really not developed yet and we’re hoping that we have an influence to make sure as many people as possible can be included in this,” Task Force Co-chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said.

The high costs associated with long-term care continue to pose a sticky problem. In many cases, to receive long-term care, older adults have to prove they are impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid, a federal-state program. 

HCBS in the spotlight

Increasing access to home- and community-based care (HCBS) emerged in the plan put forth last month by President Biden, who proposed upgrading the nation’s care economy as part of his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan. While short on details, the plan aims to support HCBS and boost the wages of caregivers.

As a way to expand HCBS, during a press briefing Tuesday, the task force said the Programs of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) — the dual Medicare and Medicaid program that provides community-based comprehensive care for seniors — could be available to a wider audience.

“We have partners everywhere. There are programs in place that we need to extend and emphasize and build up even more. This is an opportunity to bring stakeholders together and make this much more collaborative,” Task Force Co-chair Doris Matsui (D-CA) said.

The wage question

Task force members couldn’t explain how the president’s plan would increase wages for home and healthcare workers, but they suggested that allowing them to organize and bargain collectively would help.

The congressional Democrats called long-term care a “crisis situation” in the U.S. The task force estimated that 3 million women have left the workforce since the beginning of the pandemic to care for family members. They said solving the long-term care crisis through President Biden’s plan could create more than 10 million new jobs.