How about pairing home health with the postal service?
January 1, 2022 | View PDF
Kaiser Health News editor Elisabeth Rosenthal, in a recent opinion column, argues that two of America’s toughest problems can be tempered with one solution. Older people, many isolated, are ill-equipped to meet people or even have their health monitored at their homes. Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service, has gone $160 billion into debt, in part, as digital communications have replaced old-school mail.
Rosenthal suggests having letter carriers spend less time delivering mail, much of which these days involves fliers and unwanted solicitations, and instead, include in their responsibilities home visits and basic health checks on the growing population of frail and elderly seniors.
Something like this is already being done successfully and profitably in other countries like France and Japan. If the USPS could get more involved with home health services, filling a
need and earning money at the same time – a move that was actually suggested by the agency’s
own inspector general last March – that, she says, would be a win-win. Think about it. Postal
workers are already on virtually every block of America, six days a week and most of us know
and trust our postal workers too.
Perhaps they could deliver mail, say, every other day instead of every day, and on the off days, they could, with proper training, become a new on-the-ground home health workforce.
They could do home visits, redress the epidemic of loneliness among older homebound seniors and also, perhaps, check to see that some seniors have adequate supplies of food, medicine, are checking and recording their blood pressures, blood sugars, maybe even administer pills.
A lot would need to be worked out. But as many of us get older, and live alone, this is potentially a very useful idea. In some parts of the U.S., there is a voluntary program called Carrier Alert, in which the Postal Service notifies the United Way, Red Cross, or the local Agency on Aging, by placing a decal on people’s mailbox. Carriers than pay more attention when they see a sudden accumulation of mail to look for accidents or illness and notify appropriate officials. Sometimes that involves calling police to do local wellness checks as well.
In France, since 2017, families have been able to pay the postal service a fee to have home check-ins for older relatives. Rosenthal is not suggesting, however, that the Postal Service lose their essential function —delivering the mail.
“Why not instead redeploy some of the U.S. Postal Service’s vast supply of human resources to deliver a service our aging population — and our country — desperately needs?” she argues.