Medicare and Medicaid payment reforms that motivate providers to engage family caregivers in delivery processes should be a priority for the next presidential administration, recommends a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with other federal agencies and private-sector organizations, should develop and execute a national family caregiver strategy that recognizes the essential role of family caregivers to the well-being of older adults, the authors of the report, “Families Caring for an Aging America,” maintain. The strategy, they say, should include measures to adapt the nation’s systems for healthcare, workplaces and long-term services and supports to engage family caregivers and support their health, values, and social and economic well-being.

Specifically, according to the report, the strategy should:

  • Develop, test and implement mechanisms within Medicare, Medicaid and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that family caregivers of older adults are routinely identified, assessed and supported.
  • Direct the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to develop, test and implement provider payment reforms that motivate providers to engage family caregivers in delivery processes, across all modes of payment and models of care.
  • Explore, evaluate and adopt federal policies that provide financial support for working caregivers.

The committee also recommended that state governments address the health, economic and social challenges of caregiving for older adults.

According to the National Survey of Caregivers, in 2011, 17.7 million people — approximately 7.7% of the total U.S. population aged 20 or more years — were caregivers of an older adult because of health problems or functional impairments, not including caregivers of nursing home residents, they authors state.