Universal Family Care is “A public family care insurance fund to make care affordable and accessible to all,” according to UniversalFamilyCare.org. The idea is that Universal Family Care will cover individuals and families through all of life’s caregiving transitions including: childcare, paid family medical leave and long-term care.
In 2015, approximately 43.5 million caregivers provided unpaid care to an adult or child. The value of that care equated to $470 billion dollars. It’s no surprise this topic has become a societal and now a political issue for so many Americans.
Most of the time caregivers are family members who are forced to take unpaid time off from their jobs, or even leave their jobs, to are for the young, ill or elderly. This leaves families with few options and increasing financial and emotional burdens.
Josephine Kalipeni, Director of Policy and Partnerships at Caring Across Generations, tells Parentology, “People at every stage of life need more care than ever, but are less and less able to provide it without making hard choices and sacrifices in their lives, including giving up their jobs. Families are dealing with care in overlapping ways — caring for a child while balancing work, or caring for a sick spouse or parent while also caring for a child.”
The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), a bi-partisan, non-profit organization, has just published a report suggesting it’s time for government to get involved. The report, compiled by a panel of 29 experts, outlines the challenges facing families and suggestions on how Universal Family Care insurance might be structured. The recommendation is to offer comprehensive care for all caregiving needs so individuals will have one source whenever care is needed throughout their lives.
NASI suggests this type of coverage be initially developed at the state level. While some states already have paid family and medical leave or long-term care programs, this plan would allow all caregiving needs to be covered. The report offers several scenarios from “core coverage” that’s essentially an insurance pool workers pay in to like social security, to “expanded comprehensive coverage” that covers everyone, not just workers, and includes early childcare and a stipend for caregivers.
Kalipeni’s hope is the ideas will be adopted on a state level and then on a national level, “Ultimately we need a federal solution, but states are great incubators, on the front lines of innovation.”
The benefits to this kind of public policy are believed to be felt far beyond families. According to AARP, “US businesses lose up to an estimated $33.6 billion per year in lost productivity from full-time working caregivers,” making the crisis of caregivers not just a social, but an economic issue.
The issues of early childcare, paid family leave and long-term care are not new. The concept of Universal Family Care is, but is expected to become more prevalent as more and more Americans struggle with the cost of care.
Kalipeni believes the urgency for this kind of policy is already here, “Frankly, families are struggling, and they can’t wait any longer for solutions that provide them with accessible and affordable care options.”