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Seniors should have health care options available at home

Brian Bartoz

A recent article in Sauk Valley Media highlighting the shortage of caregivers for older Americans [“Fallout from the boom: a caregiver crisis,” Dec. 13] should serve as a call to action for improved public policy regarding eldercare in the United States.

To both address the shortage of qualified home care workers and keep eldercare costs in check, policymakers should embrace a new model for delivering in-home care services that allows far more seniors to “age in place” at home as their health declines.

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President Donald Trump and Congress should develop a “Healthcare Guest Worker” initiative that would allow any senior citizen in the United States who has adequate space in his or her home to host a Healthcare Guest Worker (HGW) who would provide the senior citizen with assisted-living services and basic nursing-care services.

Many prospective HGWs who live in poverty in underdeveloped countries – yet who have learned English and have a strong work ethic – would welcome the opportunity to work in the United States as caregivers.

Wages could be set by federal law at (or even well below) the federal minimum wage in order to allow as many seniors as possible to benefit by keeping costs low. Even a wage of $5.25 per hour – approximately half the $10.49 median hourly wage for home care workers in the U.S. – would be a blessing to millions of prospective HGWs who live in dire poverty in developing countries.

Providing in-home care would be cost-competitive with traditional, assisted-living facilities, and it would represent a significant cost savings compared to nursing home care.

To ensure that HGWs are delivering an adequate standard of care, registered nurses from local hospitals or counties’ departments of public health would visit senior citizens’ homes to monitor the patients’ conditions on a regular basis.

To fund the program, senior citizens would be charged based on a sliding scale that takes into account their ability to pay for services, as measured by net worth. Medicaid-eligible (i.e., poor) seniors would pay nothing; moderate-asset seniors would pay larger a portion of the actual costs; and high-net-worth seniors would pay the actual cost of the services provided.

Seniors in Illinois and across the country who want to age in place should have a realistic means of staying in a location that is familiar, safe and comfortable. Healthcare guest workers could be an integral part of the solution.

Note to readers: Brian Bartoz teaches American Government at Morrison High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Benedictine University and a master’s degree in political studies from the University of Illinois-Springfield.

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