Caregivers Provide Crucial Services

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<p>Informal caregivers play an increasingly important role in the U.S. health care system; in 2003, nearly one of 10 working-age adults was caring for a sick or disabled family member. Yet a new Commonwealth Fund study says more than half of the nation's 16 million caregivers, or 9 million adults, have health problems of their own, and many cope with severe financial stress.<br><br>
In <a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=18268&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecmwf%2Eorg%2Fpublications%2Fpublications%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D293045%26%23doc293045">A Look at Nonelderly Caregivers' Roles, Health Concerns, and Need for Support,</a> Fund researchers Alice Ho, Sara R. Collins, Ph.D., Karen Davis, Ph.D., and Michelle M. Doty, Ph.D., say caregivers aged 19 to 64 are more likely to not be working, to miss days of work if they are employed, and to lack health insurance coverage than non-caregivers. As a result, many are financially vulnerable and struggle to obtain needed care.<br><br>

Given caregivers' vital function, policymakers should take steps to ease their burdens, the authors say. Possible reforms include allowing caregivers to be covered under Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program, allowing early Medicare buy-in for caregivers of Medicare beneficiaries, or providing tax credits to help pay for caregivers' medical expenses.<br><br></p>