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States push for caregiver tax credits

AARP is pushing bills in eight state legislatures that would give home caregivers tax credits to help offset the cost of care.


The average caregiver spends $6,954 a year on out-of-pocket costs caring for a family member.

The expenses range from $7 for medical wipes to tens of thousands of dollars to retrofit a home with a walk-in shower or hire outside help.


Gloria Brown didn’t get a good night‘s sleep. Her husband, Arthur Brown, 79, has Alzheimer‘s disease and had spent most of the night pacing their bedroom, opening and closing drawers, and putting on and taking off his jacket.

So Gloria, 73, asked a friend to take Arthur out for a few hours one recent afternoon so she could grab a much-needed nap. She was lucky that day because she didn’t need to call upon the home health aide who comes to their house twice a week.

The price of paying for help isn’t cheap: The going rate in the San Francisco Bay Area ranges from $25 to $35 an hour. Gloria Brown estimates she has spent roughly $72,000 on caregivers, medications and supplies since her husband was diagnosed four years ago.

“The cost can be staggering,” said state Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), author of a bill that would give family caregivers in California a tax credit of up to $5,000 annually to help offset their expenses.

A 2016 study by AARP found that the average caregiver spends $6,954 a year on out-of-pocket costs caring for a family member. The expenses range from $7 for medical wipes to tens of thousands of dollars to retrofit a home with a walk-in shower or hire outside help.

AARP, a lobbying organization for people 50 and older, is pushing similar bills in at least seven other state legislatures this year, said Elaine Ryan, the group‘s vice president of State Advocacy and Strategy Integration. Arizona, Illinois, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin are considering legislation, and AARP expects measures also to be introduced in Florida, Massachusetts and Ohio.

In Wisconsin, two Republicans and two Democrats are behind that state’s tax credit measure.

“We need a whole discussion about how we can best keep people at home and meet their needs,” said state Rep. Debra Kolste, a Democrat who explained that most people know someone who is caring for a family member. She hopes the measure can make it through the Republican legislature and be signed by Wisconsin’s Democratic governor.

New Jersey approved a state income tax credit in 2017 specifically for caregivers of wounded veterans. However, efforts in other states have failed, including in Arizona last year and Mississippi and Virginia this year.

At the federal level, bills that would have created a federal income tax credit of up to $3,000 never got out of congressional committees last year.

“Whether I’m in Billings, Mont., or in Mississippi, the caregiver tax credit is something that people are asking for,” Ryan said. “All they’re asking for is a little financial help to offset these costs.”

A tax credit, said Brown and other caregivers, would be welcome relief to the estimated 4.5 million family caregivers in California who care for a loved one with a chronic, disabling or serious health condition. Nationwide, the AARP estimates there are about 40 million people caring for family members.

As her husband’s disease progresses, Gloria Brown expects costs to escalate. For instance, she wants to install bars in the bathroom to help prevent her husband from falling, and anticipates she will need more professional help.

“I think we’re just moving into that stage where I’m going to see the dollars going out for things that will help to make things easier for him at home and more comfortable,” Brown said. “It’s a cost you just hadn’t anticipated.”

Long-term caregiving has emerged as one of the major issues in California’s Capitol this year, with proposals ranging from naming a state “Aging Czar” to funding a new cash benefit for long-term care services. In his State of the State address last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for a master plan for aging.

“I’ve had some personal — and painful — experience with this recently,” Newsom told the joint session of the legislature.

Newsom, whose father had dementia and died last year, also has tapped former first lady Maria Shriver to lead a new Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task Force, and has asked lawmakers to approve $3 million in state funds for Alzheimer’s disease research.

Patterson’s bill would provide up to a $5,000 state income tax credit to family caregivers for five years, starting in tax year 2020. They would be reimbursed for 50% of eligible expenses, such as retrofitting a home, hiring an aide and leasing or buying specialty equipment. The credit would be available to individuals who make up to $170,000 a year, or joint income tax filers who make up to $250,000.

Patterson, a Republican in the minority, is hopeful he can convince his colleagues that giving people a tax credit is financially sound because it would enable caregivers to keep their loved ones at home rather than relying on more expensive government services.

“If members of the legislature and the governor would look through the eyes of their own families, friends and neighbors … I think it can be passed and be signed,” Patterson said.

But the measure faces competition for a slice of California’s $21 billion surplus, from proposals by the governor and lawmakers to boost funding for education, healthcare, housing and dozens of other programs.

For Pam Sogge of Oakland, Calif., a tax credit would allow her to hire a home health aide for an additional three hours a week.

Her husband, Rick Sogge, 61, has early-onset Alzheimer‘s and becomes frantic when left by himself. Sometimes when she leaves him alone in another room of their home, he searches for her every two minutes.

Because Rick Sogge is still physically healthy, most of the couple’s caregiving expenses pay for part-time help to take him on outings so Pam can work, run errands or go to the doctor’s office.

“You have a very uncertain financial future. You don’t know what‘s going to happen. You don’t know how long it‘s going to take. So you’re very conservative,” said Pam Sogge, 56, who has been caring for her husband for five years. “A tax credit, in a way, it’s permission and encouragement to get some help.”

Cantor Fitzgerald Starts Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO) at Overweight

Stifel Downgrades Nu Skin To Sell Amid Chinese Clampdown On Direct Selling

Multi-level marketing company Nu Skin Enterprises, Inc. NUS 3.75% has been embroiled in a recent controversy surrounding a customer death who reportedly relied solely on the company’s health products to treat fever.

The Analyst

Stifel analyst Mark Astrachan downgraded Nu Skin from Hold to Sell and reduced the price target from $63 to $43.

The Thesis

The bearish sentiment toward Nu Skin reflected the uncertainty surrounding direct selling companies in China against the backdrop of an investigation announced early January into the unlawful promotion and sale of health products, leading up to a 100-day ban on business meetings, Astrachan said in a note.

This, along with the recent death of the company’s registered customer in China, has elicited strong reactions from two communist party publications, one of which called for an investigation into the death and the company’s misleading advertising.

The development, according to the analyst, is reminiscent of the events of 2014 that ultimately led to the suspension of meetings and recruitment, culminating in a two-year sales decline for Nu Skin in China, which accounts for 33 percent of its sales.

“That said, we note the current situation is, at this time, directed more toward the broader health products/ direct selling market and not specifically at Nu Skin, which has not yet been specifically targeted,” the analyst wrote in the note.

Bluebird receives positive opinion from CHMP for lentiglobin, Feuerstein says

STAT’s Adam tweeted, “$BLUE the EMA’s CHMP issued a positive opinion (approval recommendation) of lentiglobin gene therapy for transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia. Brand name: Zyntelgo.”

A Good Spring Clean Can Help Tame Seasonal Allergies

When it’s finally time to store away your winter coats and boots, it’s also a good time to rid your home of the allergens that accumulated over the winter, an allergist suggests.

“If you aren’t someone who regularly undertakes spring cleaning, consider tackling it this year,” said Dr. Todd Mahr, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

“A thorough cleaning helps get rid of things like dust, mold, pet dander and other allergens, which may have been making you miserable all winter. Many people think spring and fall is when their seasonal allergies kick in. They might not realize indoor allergens can also cause chaos with your nasal passages and lungs and that a thorough cleaning can help,” Mahr explained in an ACAAI news release.

Pet dander, fur and saliva are among the allergens that can build up during winter. The best way to control them is to vacuum often and wash upholstery, including your pet’s bed. Never let your pet in the bedroom.

Change your air filters every three months and choose ones with a MERV rating of 11 or 12, Mahr advised. Fight dust mites by vacuuming regularly with a cyclonic vacuum — which spins dust and dirt away from the floor — or one equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. Wash bedding and stuffed animals weekly.

Mold is another major indoor allergen typically found in the basement, bathroom and kitchen. Reducing moisture is the key to eliminating it. Use bathroom fans and always wipe away any standing water immediately. Use detergent and water to scrub visible mold from surfaces, and then dry surfaces completely. Keep your home’s humidity below 60 percent and clean your gutters regularly to prevent leaks.

As tempting as that fresh, warm air outside is, keep your home’s windows closed during spring, Mahr suggested, because breezes can bring pollen through open windows. Keep your car windows closed too; use your air conditioning.

Mahr pointed out that allergy symptoms can appear before spring actually arrives. By starting to take your allergy medications two to three weeks before symptoms usually begin, you can avoid severe symptoms. If over-the-counter allergy medicines don’t help, talk with an allergist, he said.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on spring allergies.

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, news release, Feb. 26, 2019

Humana Bundles Spinal Fusion Payment, Expands Total Joint Replacement Plans

Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) is announcing two key milestones as it expands value-based orthopedic specialty care for Humana Medicare Advantage members, launching a bundled payment model for spinal fusion surgeries, and broadening the reach of its Total Joint Replacement Episode-Based Model for total hip or knee joint replacement procedures. Humana Launches Spinal Fusion Episode-Based Model, Announces First Program Participants Humana is teaming up with orthopedic and neurosurgery practices to launch a value-based care bundled payment initiative designed specifically to provide coordinated care for Humana Medicare Advantage members undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

The Spinal Fusion Episode-Based Model (EBM) offers the opportunity for additional payment to physicians and clinicians for improved health outcomes and cost across a member’s entire spinal surgery episode-of-care. Improvement is measured based on three clinical indication rates – readmissions, cervical complications, and lumbar complications – as well as by average risk-adjusted episodic cost-of-care.

The program’s inaugural participants are Fort Wayne Orthopedics and Ortho NorthEast(Indiana), Mayfield Brain & Spine (Ohio), and OrthoVirginia (Virginia).

Through eight additional agreements with orthopedic specialty groups across the nation, the program now is offered at more than 60 medical practices in 19 states.

Thermo Fisher CEO: We have a very disciplined M&A process

In an interview on CNBC’s Mad Money, Thermo Fisher CEO Marc Casper said: The Brammer Bio deal will help us build out our capabilities… A key element of our growth strategy is emerging markets… We are particularly strong in emerging markets… We have a very disciplined M&A process and we have a track record of creating value… Breakthrough science is coming from the U.S.