More than 17 million people in the US provide uncompensated care for adults with physical or cognitive limitations. Such caregiving is associated with worse mental and physical health, yet little research has investigated how publicly funded home care might ameliorate these harms.
To investigate the association between Medicaid home care services and family caregivers’ health.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This longitudinal cohort study used data from the 1996 to 2017 Medical Expenditures Panel Survey. Data on all household members were collected in 5 interviews over 2 years. Person-level difference-in-difference models were used to isolate within-person changes associated with new onset of Medicaid home care. The Medical Expenditures Panel Survey longitudinal data sets included 331 202 individuals (approximately 10% excluded owing to loss to follow-up). Adult (age ≥21 years) members of households that contained at least 1 person with limited activities of daily living were included in our study. The analysis itself was performed from March to August of 2020.
New onset of regular (≥1 time per month) Medicaid home care in the household.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Self-rated mental and physical health (planned prior to beginning the study).
The study population was 14 013 adults; 7232 were “likely caregivers,” or nondisabled adult coresidents of someone with activities of daily living limitations. Overall, 962 likely caregivers were ever exposed to Medicaid home care in the household; for 563, we observed the onset. Of likely caregivers exposed to Medicaid home care, 479 (50%) were women; 296 (31%) were White non-Hispanic, 309 (31%) were Hispanic or Latinx, and 279 (29%) were Black non-Hispanic individuals, respectively; 326 (34%) had less than a high school education; and 300 (31%) were in or near poverty. Median age of participants was 51 (interquartile range, 39-62) years. New-onset Medicaid home care was associated with a 0.08 standard deviation improvement in likely caregivers’ self-rated mental health (95% CI, 0.01-0.14; P = .02) measured 1 to 6 months after onset, equivalent to a 3.39% improvement (95% CI, 0.05%-6.33%) over their average preonset mental health. No association with self-rated physical health was found (<0.001 standard deviations; 95% CI, −0.06 to 0.06; P = .99).
Conclusions and Relevance
In this cohort study, Medicaid home care was associated with improvement in caregiver self-rated mental health, but not with any short-term change in self-rated physical health. When evaluating the social value of home care programs, policy makers should consider spillover benefits to caregivers.