Policy Update

Legislators Hear Caregivers' Testimony

The California Caregiver Resource Centers participated in a legislative hearing with the California State Senate Subcommittee on Aging and Long-Term Care on November 15. Committee Chair Senator Elaine Alquist and members of the Subcommittee requested policy recommendations that could be considered by the Legislature in 2006 in an effort to improve the lives of informal and formal family caregivers.

Family caregivers and other witnesses provided testimony on various topic areas. Discussion included:

  • A review of demographics and data on California's aging population and those with adult-onset disabilities and an assessment of the state's future in having adequate care for those needing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). Policy recommendations called for legislation to address the provision of resources for comprehensive community-based long-term care services to meet the needs of this growing population.
  • The negative impact (financial and otherwise) on family caregivers who leave employment in order to give care at home. Witnesses focused on the plight of "middle-class" families and caregivers who are employed, including a frank discussion on the psychological and emotional toll experienced by caregivers. Policy recommendations included increased coordination among state agencies to benefit caregivers.
  • The unique issues and problems faced by family caregivers within California's rich diversity: geographic and cultural. Witnesses illuminated the challenges of caregivers within California's diverse ethnic communities (including Asian Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and African American populations) and in rural populations (challenges include lack of access to services, geography/distance, shortage of health care providers, and difficulty locating paid caregivers where few exist). Policy recommendations focused on the need for a strategy to serve diverse populations of caregivers with culturally appropriate services and the need for improved services for those in rural areas.
  • Disability and access-related issues faced by family caregivers in their efforts to provide high quality, home and community-based care and assistance. Discussion focused on the use of computer-based technology (such as the "Link2Care" program and "Tele-Caregiving" workshops) to assist and guide family caregivers in navigating the maze of publicly and privately funded programs and services in order to find appropriate help throughout the process of caregiving.

Members of the California State Senate Subcommittee on Aging and Long-Term Care include Senators Elaine Alquist (D-San Jose) (Chair), Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley/Nevada City), Dave Cox (R-Sacramento/Roseville), Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica/Los Angeles), and Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento). Please contact your legialators to express support for programs benefiting caregivers. For more information, please contact California State Senate Subcommittee on Aging and Long-Term Care.

Emergency Assistance for Prescription Drug Coverage

California has joined other states in offering seniors emergency assistance for prescription drug coverage in response to glitches in the new federal prescription drug program offered under Medicare. State officials ordered emergency action to cover drug costs for 1 million elderly Californians. Nine states have taken action to bail out the federal government. Critics say that the program is fast becoming a public health emergency.

The problems stem from a provision of the Medicare prescription drug law that was to automatically switch about 6 million elderly, low-income and disabled people into the program by January 1, 2006—the start date of the coverage nationwide. These individuals had previously been covered by Medicaid, or Medi-Cal in California. California officials said that as many as one-fifth of the 1 million elderly, poor and disabled residents who were switched to the federal program on January 1 could be wrongly denied their medications because of inadequate data. Read More

No Caregiver Tax Credit for 2005

First authorized in 2000, the Caregiver Tax Credit allowed individuals who care for a mentally or physically disabled spouse, child, or other household member to receive a $500 tax credit. The Caregiver Tax Credit in California expired on January 1, 2005. In February 2005, California State Assemblymember Patty Berg (D-Eureka) introduced AB 298 to extend the tax credit to January 1, 2011.

The bill authorizing an extension on the existing income tax credit for caregivers failed to move forward in the California legislature when it did not move out of the Senate Committee on Revenue and Taxation. However, while the extension was not approved this year, AB 298 is a two-year bill so there is still a chance that the bill will be approved and the tax credits will be available for California caregivers.

To receive the $500 tax credit, AB 298 specifies that a care recipient must be an individual with long-term care needs for at least 180 consecutive days and limits eligibility for the tax credit to those whose adjusted gross income for the taxable year is less than $100,000. In 2003, $2.4 million was allocated in California to eligible caregivers through the use of the tax credit. For more information, contact the Office of Assemblymember Patty Berg.

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