Approximately 25% of the nation’s 40 million family caregivers are millennials, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute reportMillennials: The Emerging Generation of Family Caregivers.

That’s right: Millennial caregivers.

And this generation of Americans in their 20s and 30s has definite ideas of what the federal government and employers should do to help people deal with the financial and personal strain of long-term care.

Millennial Caregivers May Lead Government to Act on Long-Term Care

Millennial caregivers are expected to strongly encourage policymakers to pass legislation targeted at relieving the financial burden of caregiving, while pushing employers to embrace caregiving as a workplace benefit. Because Medicare generally doesn’t cover long-term care and Medicaid only offers benefits to the lowest-income Americans, the changes favored by millennials would offer welcome financial relief to family caregivers of any generation. Millennials and seniors alike are lobbying to bridge this gap.

Millennials pay a substantial price for caregiving, according to AARP. Its study found that 73% of millennial caregivers work, and more than half of them say caregiving has interfered with their jobs. They’ve received warnings about performance, turned down promotions and taken other actions that could jeopardize their long-term financial security.

AARP figures millennials pay an average of $6,800 a year in out-of-pocket costs to meet their caregiving responsibilities—a higher percentage of income than other generations.

Top Sacrifices of Millennial Caregivers

The AP-NORC study, Younger Adults’ Experiences and Views on Long-term Care (funded by The SCAN Foundation), said the top sacrifices among millennial caregivers surveyed were:

  • Free time
  • Leisure and sleep
  • A sense of self
  • Personal life and privacy
  • Career work and education

“How I balance work and caregiving is a big issue,” says Jean Accius, AARP’s vice president for independent living/long-term services and supports.

Where Millennials Stand on Public Policy and Long-Term Care

According to the report, just over 60% of millennials AP-NORC surveyed favored a variety of public policy proposals as well as a recent law aimed at helping people with the costs of long-term care. But fewer millennials supported these than did people 40 and older; 70-81% of the older respondents endorsed these ideas.

Take Medicare Advantage, the comprehensive Medicare health plan offered through private insurers with a designated network of health providers. Legislation known as The CHRONIC Act — Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care — lets Medicare Advantage add long-term care supports and services to coverage. The AP/NORC survey found that 65% of millennials and 81% of people 40+ like that idea.

Similarly, 62% of millennials surveyed approved of tax breaks for purchasing long-term care insurance (such write-offs are limited today to certain taxpayers who qualify); 75% of people 40+ liked this idea.

A full 60% of millennials (and 70% of people 40+) said they’d actually like to see a government-administered long-term care insurance program similar to Medicare.

Millennials Want Employers to Support Long-Term Care Needs

Millennials are especially enthusiastic about employers stepping up – 81% said employers should offer long-term care insurance plans as a benefit. And 62% want to see such a benefit made portable, like COBRA is for employer-sponsored health insurance; 74% of those 40+ felt this way.

But most of these ideas will only help marginally, at best.

For instance, the private long-term care insurance market is shrinking; insurers selling the policies are reducing benefits and hiking premiums. And although COBRA turns an employer-sponsored health insurance plan into a portable benefit, it’s an expensive option, especially if an employee has lost his or her job.

Movement in Washington to Help Caregivers and Care Recipients

Fortunately, there’s been some activity stirring in Washington to help family caregivers and people needing long-term care.

The legislative change that opened up Medicare Advantage to long-term care is potentially a big deal. And the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act, directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create an advisory council to recommend strategies that would help family caregivers. Employers will have a seat on this council, and they seem to have heard their employee’s caregiving message.

“Employers see the value of support,” says Accius. “They lose talented workers. It’s a retention opportunity.”

Congress is far from receptive to ramping up another universal government benefit these days. Nevertheless, the odds are improving that family caregivers may get greater support from policymakers and employers over the next few years. Nowhere near what’s needed. But a step forward.

Still, even a modest move counts as progress.

Find more Caregiver Tips and Senior Financial news on Bethesda’s blog.


By Chris Farrell for Next Avenue

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