Samuel Boone: Dangers to family caregivers

Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 5:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 5:10 p.m.

The article recently published in the Gainesville Sun titled "DCF: Medicaid paying nursing home bill for wealthy" delineated how some people are taking advantage of the law that allows for payments to nursing-home residents to be made to spouses and other family members who help care for loved ones.

While some people may be abusing the law for their personal financial advantage, changes being considered by the Florida Legislature could cause catastrophic hardship for thousands of people in Florida who are simply trying to help care for their family.

Lawmakers created personal service contracts (PSCs) to make sure family-member caregivers could be reasonably compensated, as are caregivers from the private sector, for their assistance. That's because these caregivers often have to leave their jobs or work part time in order to devote the necessary hours to provide their relative with services that Medicaid does not. Without PSCs, many caregivers would lose much or all of their income.

Some lawmakers are now looking to limit the benefit of PSCs. However, we urge lawmakers to keep in mind the following:

* Rates paid family members must be reasonable hourly rate for a reasonable number of hours. There are already rules to catch the cheaters. They must be enforced.

* Family caregivers must report the money they make on PSCs as taxable income. This is not free money.

Limiting these contracts will no doubt cause great financial and emotional stress on caregivers, and when they suffer, so do those they care for. We do not need more legislation. We need to enforce the rules already in place.

Samuel W. Boone Jr. is an attorney and president of Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys.

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