Elder-care researchers: Critics using invalid arguments to oppose statewide Question 1 – Paul Osterman

MIT Sloan Prof. Paul Osterman

MIT Sloan Prof. Paul Osterman

From Portland Press Herald

Everybody knows that the population of older adults is set to explode as the baby boomers age. Everybody knows that overwhelmingly, the elderly want to remain in their homes even as they need help with daily living.

But what people may not know is that many older adults in Maine will not be able to achieve this unless something changes. What could change for the better is a favorable vote on Question 1. And contrary to the lies that critics are spreading, Question 1 would be good for the economy, as well as Maine families.

As experts who have spent decades researching the economics of caregiving and the effectiveness of social policy, it has been infuriating to see opponents of Question 1 try to dupe Mainers with unsound arguments and scare tactics. The argument for Question 1 is clear: Older Mainers currently do not have the freedom of choice to stay at home as long as they want to, for two reasons.

First, the average annual cost of full-time home care in Maine is close to $54,000, which is about the total earnings of the typical older household. Just half-time care is prohibitively expensive.

Second, even if people have the money, they may not be able to find a caregiver, let alone a skilled one. The work is tough and demanding, yet it pays less than working in retail or food service. In Maine, and throughout the country, there will be a terrible shortage of home care aides unless compensation is improved.

Question 1 will address these challenges by creating a fund available to all Maine residents, regardless of their income, and by mandating improvements in the compensation of home care aides. This fund will be financed by a progressive tax, one that only hits earnings over $128,400 and that is shared equally by employees at that level and the companies that employ them.

Question 1 is a winning solution to a looming crisis, yet it is being fought using arguments that are simply wrong.

Read the full post at Portland Press Herald.

Paul Osterman is the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Professor of Human Resources and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management as well as a member of the Department of Urban Planning at MIT. 

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