John and Debbie Dingell
John and Debbie Dingell

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell shares how the former vice president’s compassion for her late husband shows how he’d treat Michigan’s seniors as president of the United States. 

Addressing long-term care is a deeply personal fight for me. I know I was luckier than 99.9% of people in this country, but still faced major challenges every single day getting my late husband, John, the care he needed.

Here is the reality: The long-term care system in this country is broken. The fragmented system leaves seniors, people with disabilities, and their families desperate, stressed, and they don’t know where to turn. Between Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance, the system is impossible to navigate. And once you’ve hit a maximum of 90 days of inpatient care—you’re out and in even worse shape.

That needs to change, and Joe Biden has a plan to do just that. 

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When John first got sick and almost died after casting his last vote, Joe and Jill were at the hospital that day because they knew how hard it was. And they were always there checking in on John, with me, encouraging John on his Twitter, cheering him up, and providing understanding and support. 

I know that Joe Biden will deliver on caregiving for Michiganders because his plan comes from his own personal experience. He had to care for his aging parents. This plan is a promise from Joe –– if he’s elected, he will take care of your family like he would his own.

This pandemic has laid bare the struggle for people in Michigan to find access to quality caregiving for aging people, or to juggle the responsibilities of caring for family members. But even before the pandemic, our state was experiencing a caregiving crisis. 

Michigan is home to one of the oldest populations in the country, with almost one fifth of the state’s population being above the age of 65. So there are a lot of people who need care. But our system is so flawed that care needs were going untended. Other care needs were filled by Michiganders serving as unpaid caregivers lacking the financial support they needed, and sometimes putting their careers on hold. 

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Joe’s plan seriously addresses long-term care by easing both the financial burden on families caring for aging loved ones, while also providing people who need care with better, more dignified services that meet their specific needs and personal choices. 

Specifically, Joe’s plan would expand access to long-term services by closing the gaps and eliminating the current waitlist for home- and community-based services under Medicaid. He would establish a state innovation fund for creative, cost-effective direct care services. And he’d improve caregiving and health outcomes in our nation’s most underserved communities by adding 150,000 community health workers. 

In the House, I’ve led bipartisan bills to strengthen and improve long-term care, Medicare and Medicaid, and to support caregivers. We’ve made some ground and progress. But we need a president who makes long-term care and fixing our broken healthcare system a priority. 

And Joe wouldn’t just make it more affordable to get loved ones the care they need. He’d make sure that caregivers are treated with respect and dignity, and give them the pay and benefits they deserve, training and career ladders to higher-paying jobs, and the choice to join a union and bargain collectively.

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I struggled for four years to navigate a very broken system when John was sick. When I’m home in Michigan, people always tell me they want Congress to focus on healthcare policies that will lower costs for long-term care. They tell me their personal stories and struggles. 

It’s a failure on the part of our government that millions of families are forced to break the bank, or quit their jobs to care for their loved ones. 

Joe Biden has a plan to change that, and it’s another example of the desperately needed leadership he would bring to the White House.