Two of America’s hardest issues will be tempered with one resolution.
The child growth technology is graying, creating an ever-larger inhabitants of older individuals, many remoted, whose wants the nation is sick outfitted to satisfy and even monitor.
In the meantime, the U.S. Postal Service has gone $160 billion into debt, partially as digital communications have changed snail mail. This yr it has requested two fee will increase for stamps and different companies, bringing the worth of a first-class stamp to 58 cents. It’s operating an aggressive TV advert marketing campaign, presumably to construct assist for Congress to step in with some form of rescue.
So here is a possible win-win resolution: Have letter carriers spend much less time delivering mail, a lot of which now entails fliers and solicitations. As an alternative, embody of their tasks — “the swift completion of their appointed rounds” — residence visits and primary well being checks on the rising inhabitants of frail and aged.
This may increasingly sound out-of-the-box, nevertheless it’s already achieved efficiently and profitably in different nations, like France and Japan. Certainly, the concept the USPS may get extra concerned in residence well being companies — to fill a necessity and earn cash — was recommended by the company’s personal Workplace of Inspector Basic in March.
To date, different options to fill the necessity for residence well being care have proved elusive. President Joe Biden proposed $400 billion in his preliminary infrastructure plan to enhance companies for the homebound aged, a characteristic that Congress did not retain. However Democrats’ congressional reconciliation price range decision, at the moment below debate, may allot cash to the trigger.
In the meantime tens of thousands and thousands of older Individuals — the “previous previous” — should not so sick that they want a hospital however are unable to reside safely at residence with out assist. In Maine, the state with the oldest inhabitants, an estimated 10,000 hours of wanted and accredited residence care isn’t offered each week due to a dearth of staff. That, for instance, leaves sufferers with early dementia fending for themselves at nice danger. Individuals who need assistance getting ready medication or meals will be lacking each.
Postal staff are already on nearly each block of America six days per week. They’re “individuals individuals,” because the current TV advertisements painting, typically beloved by their clients.
Sure, letter carriers are already busy, partially due to the quantity of bundle deliveries, which jumped in the course of the pandemic. However what about scrapping the concept of on a regular basis supply? That too was recommended by the company’s inspector common, a decade in the past. Mail could possibly be delivered just some instances per week, say, each different day. And on the off days, presto — we get a brand new on-the-ground residence well being workforce.
They might do residence visits, to redress an epidemic of loneliness amongst older homebound Individuals and test on whether or not a buyer has an satisfactory provide of meals and medicines. With a little bit of retraining, they may test and file blood stress, take a look at blood sugar ranges in individuals with diabetes and even administer tablets.
Letter carriers already successfully function casual watchdogs, noticing if an older shopper hasn’t picked up mail, for instance. In some elements of the nation, that perform is formalized below a voluntary program referred to as Provider Alert, during which the Postal Service notifies a taking part service company, famous Brian Renfroe, government vice chairman of the Nationwide Affiliation of Letter Carriers.
However the USPS could possibly be paid, by the federal government or by people, for this and different helpful companies.
In France, since 2017, households have been in a position to pay a small month-to-month price to La Poste — about 20 euros or $24 — to have residence check-ins for an older relative. The service, referred to as Watch Over My Dad and mom, presents one to 6 visits per week, and the postal employee stories the resident’s situation to the shopper every time.
Japan launched an identical postal program by a public-private partnership in 2017, to underwrite paid, month-to-month, half-hour visits (a pleasant chat and well being test) with members of the growing old at-home inhabitants.
The put up workplace’s important capabilities — like delivering the federal authorities’s $1,200 pandemic reduction checks, mail-in ballots and prescription medicines — are too essential to lose. And USPS funds have improved just lately, partially due to bundle deliveries and a $10 billion mortgage by the 2020 American Restoration and Reinvestment Act.
However when was the final time you ran to the mailbox to listen to from a pal, test the information, or accumulate a financial institution assertion or invoice? It simply is smart financially and socially for the company to evolve to satisfy the nation’s present wants.
After all, this alone won’t shut the USPS’ $160 billion price range hole, the majority of which resulted from a authorities mandate that it prefund the company’s pension plan and, particularly, its retiree well being advantages. With out that, the USPS would have been within the black (typically simply barely) for about half of the years since 2006 — although, total, it was almost $10 billion in debt in the course of the interval.
Fixing that requirement will take congressional intervention; modifications may also be wanted in a legislation that at the moment requires six-day-a-week supply and usually precludes the USPS from providing “nonpostal” merchandise. Bipartisan laws launched within the Senate this yr seeks to loosen the latter restriction to assist the USPS earn cash from companies of “enhanced worth to the general public” (like promoting looking and fishing licenses).
In the present day, the postal service delivers huge quantities of “spam,” additionally referred to as unsolicited mail. Firms spend about $167 yearly on unsolicited mail per individual, yielding good returns, the business says. However a lot of it finally ends up unread and unopened within the trash or recycling bin, an environmental nightmare.
Why not as a substitute redeploy a few of the U.S. Postal Service’s huge provide of human assets to ship a service our growing old inhabitants — and our nation — desperately wants?
This text was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Household Basis. Kaiser Well being Information, an editorially unbiased information service, is a program of the Kaiser Household Basis, a nonpartisan well being care coverage analysis group unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
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