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Ray's Round Up: Resounding Support for CARE Act, Yet Legislation Remains on Hold

PA Capitol Building with attribution

The budget discussions in Harrisburg reflected the winter weather this week – they appear to have gone into a deep freeze.  With no movement anticipated for the near future on resolving the remaining budget concerns, it seems appropriate to discuss another issue on AARP’s legislative priority list for 2016 – the passage of the Caregiver, Advise, Record, and Enable (CARE) Act.

Implementation of the CARE Act would give important assistance to family caregivers at a critical time – when their loved one was admitted to a hospital.  It would require hospitals to record the name of the family caregiver when a patient was admitted to the hospital, notify the family caregiver when the patient is to be discharged, and give instructions to the family caregiver of medical tasks that the patient will need when they are at home.

The requirement for hospitals to recognize and assist family caregivers would give these caregivers a sense of security at a time of crisis, when they are likely to be juggling many responsibilities and are stressed about the health challenges that forced their loved one to the hospital.  The CARE Act is also a great benefit to hospitals, which is why the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania has endorsed the legislation.  Hospitals struggle with patients being discharged then being readmitted to the hospital in a few days or weeks.  By ensuring that family caregivers know how to perform those necessary at-home medical procedures, hospital can lower their readmission rates and keep individuals healthier and happier at home.

The necessity of this legislation became apparent as health care providers and advocates for older adults began to recognize the important role family caregivers play in our overall long-term services and supports system.   AARP and other organizations spoke with and surveyed family caregivers, and perhaps the most important finding was discovering how much medical care these caregivers provide to their loved ones – and how unprepared many of them were to deliver this care.  The concept of the CARE Act is relatively simple, but it is what family caregivers say they need – and the results will make a huge difference for both family caregivers and the individuals they are caring for.

So why hasn’t this bill passed the General Assembly and been signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf?  Go back and read the first paragraph again.  The budget impasse has disrupted regular legislative order in Pennsylvania and even a bill like the CARE Act has been caught up in the dysfunction.  The CARE Act was introduced in the State House of Representatives as HB 1329 by Rep. Hal English from Allegheny County.  It sailed through the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee and passed the full House by a vote of 194-1.  It moved to the Senate, where the Aging and Youth Committee approved it by a unanimous vote.  It then went to the full Senate, was placed on the legislative calendar…..and sat there as budget negotiations dominated the legislative process.  The Senate finally “tabled” the bill, which simply means it was removed from the legislative calendar for now because the Senate was working on other issues (i.e. the State Budget and related items).

At some point in the near future the Senate will revisit the numerous bills that have been “tabled.”  AARP volunteers across the Commonwealth have been urging their State Senators to tell the Senate leadership to bring HB 1329 up for a final vote.  Family caregivers need the protections the CARE Act will offer them – because sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that make the most sense.

“Ray’s Round Up” features updates on current state and federal issues by Ray Landis, AARP PA’s Advocacy Manager.  

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