Caregiving and lower overall health of caregivers cost U.S. $264 billion annually, new report shows

By Regence
November 08, 2021
Health of America 2021 economic impact of caregiving

Moody’s economic analysis of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association data addresses caregiving impact on employment, absenteeism and caregiver health

Many of us, at one time or another, have cared for an aging loved one, or a family member or friend with a serious medical condition.

We take on the role of unpaid caregiver amid life’s many other responsibilities, including our jobs, making caregivers an invisible work force that plays a critical role in the success of our communities and the U.S. health care system.

As the number of people who need care continues to grow – with nearly 51 million Americans who are elderly or have a serious medical condition needing care, and that work being done by adult friends and family – the toll on the U.S. economy is great.

A Moody’s economic analysis of data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) finds that caregiving and the lack of interventions to address the demands of providing care cost the U.S. economy $264 billion annually.

“The Economic Impact of Caregiving” report addresses the impact of caregiving on employment, absenteeism and caregiver health as determined by poor health outcomes associated with the demands of providing care, and how caregiving affects caregivers’ employment, absenteeism and productivity.

The report estimates the most significant impact is the lower overall health among caregivers, which reduces annual income by $221 billion. Add to that the direct impact of caregiving on employment, which is estimated to reduce annual income by an additional $44 billion.

The report notes that uncompensated caregiving has resulted in the loss of more than 650,000 jobs, with nearly 800,000 caregivers suffering from absenteeism issues at work.

“Caregivers are our country’s unsung heroes,” said Peggy Maguire, senior vice president at Regence, which has long supported the needs of caregivers and our members. “Insights like these spotlight how a caregiver’s health and livelihood may be affected and how important it is for us to find ways to better care for those providing care. This will require awareness and a collective effort from communities, the health care industry and our government  to identify and accelerate solutions to support our country’s caregivers.”

A previous BCBSA Health of America report from September 2020 found that unpaid caregivers are experiencing significant health declines due to the stress and pressure of caring for a spouse or child. The data show that, on average, this population had 26% poorer health compared to a benchmark population.

Regence's Care Management program is available to help members and their loved ones, providing caregivers with one-on-one support, resources and expertise. In addition, Regence members have access to palliative care—specialized medical care for people living with serious illness and significant injury.

Regence members who would like more information on care management, palliative care or other health plan benefits can visit or call the number on the back of their member ID card.