Skip to content

December 01, 2021

On Senate Floor, King Highlights Wide-Ranging Economic Benefits of Homecare Investments in Build Back Better Plan

King warns of a “demographic tidal wave”; urges investments that can help seniors, confront workforce issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today spoke on the Senate Floor to highlight homecare investments in the Build Back Better plan that will boost America’s wider economy, support the nation’s hardworking caregivers, and help Maine people receive the care they need from the comfort of their own homes. In his speech, Senator King emphasized how as the oldest state in the nation, and one facing a “demographic tidal wave,” Maine has felt the challenges facing America’s caregiving industry more acutely than any other state – and shared how investments in homecare will have a major impact on the state’s entire workforce and the health of our citizens.

“The reality is that we are an aging population. Ten thousand people a day qualify for Medicare – ten thousand people a day. We are an aging population; my state of Maine is in fact the oldest state in America,” said Senator King. “The state of Maine and the country are aging – that's a reality. We can wish it away, we can act like it's not really happening, but that is an enormous demographic tidal wave that's coming at us right now…. So the real question is, how are we going to care for these people? Thousands of them end up in nursing homes, in long-term care. Those facilities do yeoman work and they take wonderful care of people, but 60% of people in long-term care are paid for by Medicaid. That's important because I'm going to be making the argument that the investments that we're making in this bill are in fact investments that will actually diminish expenditures in other areas. Here's another reality: it costs about $26,000 a year to provide home and community-based services for a person with disabilities or a senior who needs those services – $26,000 a year. Long-term care in a nursing home is over $90,000 a year.”

“The reality is that we have a demographic tidal wave coming at us, and the question is, are we going to deal with it actively and confront it or are we simply going to sit back and say, it's like it's always been? It's not like it's always been – we've never had a demographic boom in the seniors like we're going to have in the next 20 years. Our generation – my generation – are the pig in the python of the demographics of this country, and we're going to have to confront it,” continued Senator King. “So how do we confront it? We confront it in a number of ways. The homecare provisions of [the Build Back Better] bill are one of the ways to confront it and there's also a hidden economic benefit here. If people need care, they're going to get it one way or another, they may well in many cases be getting it from their children, who then can't go to work. We desperately need workers in this economy right now, but they're locked up because they can't leave home; they can't leave their elderly mom. So to have the home-based services liberates people in order to participate in the economy.”

“What can we do about it? We can do something about the wages of these people, of the people working in this industry who are providing this essential care and are making $12 an hour, among the lowest pay in our society. How do we know that pay is inadequate? 50% turnover in a home-based care facility… is considered good – 100% turnover in a year is not unusual. That tells you there's a real problem in the compensation of the workforce,” concluded Senator King. “So [the Build Back Better] bill provides funds to improve the living standard of the people that are providing these services. It provides training, it provides a career path, it provides hope for people – not only those who are giving the services but those who are needing the services. I believe this [bill] is an investment. This is the right investment in the right people at the right time.”

If passed, the homecare provisions in the Build Back Better plan are expected to give the nation’s economy an immediate boost and create long-term economic growth – creating thousands of new homecare jobs that would allow many current family caregivers to return to work. By paying home care workers a living wage, this bill will reduce reliance on assistance programs such as Medicaid or SNAP, and save employers valuable resources by reducing turnover.

Senator King has consistently worked to build a stronger homecare workforce and provide better care to Maine’s seniors and people in need. Earlier this year, he introduced three key pieces of legislation to improve the quality of homecare by providing career support and advancement opportunities for home healthcare providers. He also sponsored the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act, which would increase the number of permanent faculty in palliative care, and the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act which would allow Medicare payment for home health services ordered by a nurse practitioner, a clinical nurse specialist, a certified nurse-midwife, or a physician assistant.

Next Article » « Previous Article