The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has announced a benefit of up to $9,000 to reimburse funeral expenses for those who died from Covid-19. There is no means test, so people qualify for the benefit regardless of the income or wealth of the deceased or family members. (This same benefit has been available in previous disasters.) FEMA will not reimburse any amounts paid for or reimbursed by pre-planned sources such as funeral insurance, veterans benefits, etc.
Everyone dies eventually. If a person died with no resources and there is no insurance or other benefit available, it can be difficult or impossible for relatives to pay funeral expenses regardless of when or why the person dies. Most states have provisions to pay for a burial if the person died with no resources and no one else volunteers to pay. And relatives cannot be forced to pay for a funeral or burial.
So why should we expect FEMA to pay such a benefit? And even if a benefit is available, why should there be no means testing?
Contrary to the Register Editorial on 12/1/2019, we should not add long-term care as a new benefit under Medicare. (See link below to The Register’s Editorial urging Medicare coverage of long-term care.) If we want to solve problems using the force of government, we should do the minimum needed to solve the problem. In this case, the problem is making sure that people receive medically necessary long-term care, not making sure that money is left to people’s heirs.
We currently have a pretty good situation: Many people voluntarily purchase private long-term care insurance. Many others who could afford insurance choose to take a risk and not buy it. Taxpayer-funded Medicaid covers the cost of long-term care for those who are unable to pay. For those in the middle – not on Medicaid, but who would struggle to pay for private long-term care insurance – Medicaid already goes a long way to help them qualify for long-term care coverage. For example, if one spouse of a married couple needs long-term care, the other spouse gets to keep a house and a car and some income, even though Medicaid pays for the long-term care of the first spouse.
The best long-term, sustainable solutions to our problems is to give voluntary, free choice to people and then expect them to be responsible for their decisions. To the extent that we allow our government to force everyone into one-size-fits-all welfare programs, there will be ongoing, unsustainable frustrations, disagreements, and dependency problems.
Our population is aging and we all want to stay in our own homes as long as possible. We definitely do have an increasing demand for in-home caregivers. But I urge our Presidential candidates and our elected federal representatives to not support the mandatory Universal Family Care proposal as described by Al-jen Poo in her recently published essay. (See link below to the “Your Turn” essay by Al-jen Poo published in The Des Moines Register on 9/19/2109)
We do not need, and should not create, a new federal government sponsored, taxpayer funded entitlement program! Such a scheme would make us even more dependent on our government. Caregiving for family members at home should be left to family, friends and voluntary charitable efforts. This is part of being a family and accepting responsibility for ourselves and our loved ones. Yes it is a burden, but it is one that we should accept.