Before adjourning, the 109th Congress unanimously approved a bill that will provide a measure of relief for the millions of Americans currently providing unpaid care in their homes to the elderly or those with special needs. President Bush has signed the bill into law.
The Lifespan Respite Care Act (HR 3248) authorizes nearly $300 million in grants to states over the next five years to help families hire temporary help to relieve primary caregivers. Building on programs in states like North Carolina, the new federal law will provide respite services regardless of age, income level or condition severity.
Starting in 2007, the new federal law will give states money to provide respite care services for family caregivers caring for children or adults, to train and recruit respite care workers and volunteers, and to provide information to caregivers about available respite and support services.
“The new law . . . is part of a growing effort by the federal government to encourage home care as a way of saving money in other programs, especially Medicaid, for the high cost of nursing homes,” wrote The Wall Street Journal. The Journal points out that if respite care delayed every senior’s institutionalization by one month, it could save the government as much as $1.12 billion a year.
National Respite Coalition chairwoman Jill Kagan said that "in the short term, [the new law] will ease the burden on Medicaid and Medicare. But in the long term, it won’t avoid nursing home placement, but it will be cost saving."
To read the new law, go to http://thomas.loc.gov, enter Bill Number “HR 3248” and then select version four, “Enrolled as Agreed to or Passed by Both House and Senate.”