LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Advocates for the elderly asked Nebraska lawmakers to approve a $500 income tax credit for caregivers on Friday.
Suzy Campbell, who runs a nonprofit called Caregiver Chicks, told the Legislature's Revenue Committee during a hearing that caregivers assume a lot of costs that insurance doesn't cover. The Lincoln woman said a tax credit would provide them with much-needed financial relief for medical supplies and other necessities the insurance company won't handle.
The credit might even help pay for respite care so a caregiver can take some time off, she said.
"I know how vital it is for caregivers to have relief. You concentrate on who you're taking care of and neglect yourself," said Campbell, who for 16 years cared for her late husband, Fred, whose bladder cancer led to several other health problems before his death in 2010.
Sen. Kate Bolz, also of Lincoln, proposed a bill to offer a tax credit to middle-class families after hearing from Campbell and other constituents. Former Lincoln Sen. Tony Fulton came up with a similar measure in 2009.
If Bolz's bill is approved, caregivers would receive the annual $500 credit starting this tax season for taking care of anyone over the age of 65 who has physical, mental or emotional disabilities. Only caregivers with incomes above $27,925 a year could qualify for a refundable tax credit.
"Staying at home after becoming ill is a very important thing," Bolz said. "Having that tax credit can extend the time a person can stay in the care."
According to census data, 12,664 Nebraskans over the age of 65 had a self-care disability, meaning they could be cared for at home.
Estimates show the tax credit would cost the state more than $1.6 million over the first year, but Campbell said, "If you are able to keep people living at home, it saves the state significant dollars."
AARP Nebraska advocacy director Mark Intermill said putting someone on Medicaid costs three times what it does for in-home care. AARP estimates that caregivers offer about 210 million hours of unpaid care valued at $2.2 billion annually.
Intermill, who spoke in support of the bill at the hearing, said providing support for caregivers like Campbell should be an important part of Nebraska's long-term care policy.
No one spoke against the bill Friday.
The bill is LB264.