State Rep. Phyllis Mundy



Mundy urges Senate to pass family caregiver bill


HARRISBURG, April 28 – During a news conference at the state Capitol today, state Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Luzerne, along with a group of supporters, called on the state Senate to pass her legislation (H.B. 245) that would remove barriers to Pennsylvania’s Family Caregiver Support Program.


Since 1990, the Pennsylvania Family Caregiver Support Program has provided financial support for those caring for an older relative at home. The federal Family Caregiver Support Program, established in 2000, was largely based on Pennsylvania’s law with the exception of the relative and residency requirements.


Mundy, who chairs the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, says that despite an increase in demand, the Pennsylvania program is being underutilized because of its outdated guidelines.


"It’s time we recognize that today’s caregivers are not limited to traditional family members but increasingly include family friends and neighbors," Mundy said. "It’s unacceptable that our area agencies on aging are continually forced to return state funding for this program despite a waiting list." 


House Bill 245 would eliminate the current waiting list for these services by mirroring the federal program. The bill also would increase the reimbursement limit for caregiving-related expenses from $200 to $500 and the lifetime grant limit for home modification and assistive devices from $2,000 to $6,000. This would be the first adjustment to these rates since the creation of Pennsylvania’s program almost 20 years ago.


Noting that the economic value of Pennsylvania’s caregivers has been estimated at more than $15 billion a year, Mundy emphasized that passage of this bill is a win not only for caregivers and seniors, but also the Commonwealth’s taxpayers. "Caregivers serve a specific niche in the health-care system by allowing older residents to age at home and by providing care that is far less costly than institutional care," Mundy said.


Mundy was joined at the news conference by supporters and representatives from several groups, including: the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the Greater Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association and AARP Pennsylvania.


"This bill has been one of our top legislative priorities for more than five years for reasons that become even more compelling when looking at the current scope and challenges facing the family caregiver in our Commonwealth. As many as 400,000 Pennsylvanians suffer from Alzheimer's or another type of dementia, and seven out of 10 of those are cared for at home by family, neighbors or friends, a notable portion of whom have very limited income," said Bob Marino, chair of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Pennsylvania Public Policy Coalition and board member of the Delaware Valley Chapter.


According to Crystal Lowe, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging, "More and more Pennsylvanians are living longer. Without the support of caregivers, the Commonwealth will be in a greater economic crisis than what we already face. We hope that the Senate will enact this bill to help us maximize our existing resources." 


The bill unanimously passed the House in March 2009 and is currently in the Senate Aging and Youth Committee.