Two of America’s hardest issues could 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 unwell geared up to fulfill and even monitor.
In the meantime, the U.S. Postal Service has gone $160 billion into debt, partly as digital communications have changed snail mail. This 12 months it has requested two charge will increase for stamps and different companies, bringing the value 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 right here’s a possible win-win resolution: Have letter carriers spend much less time delivering mail, a lot of which now includes fliers and solicitations. As a substitute, embody of their tasks — “the swift completion of their appointed rounds” — dwelling visits and fundamental well being checks on the rising inhabitants of frail and aged.
This will likely sound out-of-the-box, but it surely’s already executed efficiently and profitably in different nations, like France and Japan. Certainly, the concept the USPS may get extra concerned in dwelling well being companies — to fill a necessity and earn cash — was advised by the company’s personal Workplace of Inspector Common in March.
Up to now, different options to fill the necessity for dwelling 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 function that Congress didn’t retain. However Democrats’ congressional reconciliation funds decision, at the moment underneath debate, may allot cash to the trigger.
In the meantime tens of hundreds of thousands of older People — the “outdated outdated” — aren’t so sick that they want a hospital however are unable to stay safely at dwelling with out assist. In Maine, the state with the oldest inhabitants, an estimated 10,000 hours of wanted and authorised dwelling care will not be supplied each week due to a dearth of employees. That, for instance, leaves sufferers with early dementia fending for themselves at nice threat. Individuals who need assistance getting ready drugs or meals could be lacking each.
Postal employees are already on nearly each block of America six days every week. They’re “individuals individuals,” because the latest TV adverts painting, typically beloved by their clients.
Sure, letter carriers are already busy, partly due to the quantity of package deal deliveries, which jumped throughout the pandemic. However what about scrapping the thought of on a regular basis supply? That too was advised by the company’s inspector common, a decade in the past. Mail could possibly be delivered just some instances every week, say, each different day. And on the off days, presto — we get a brand new on-the-ground dwelling well being workforce.
They might do dwelling visits, to redress an epidemic of loneliness amongst older homebound People and test on whether or not a buyer has an enough provide of meals and medicines. With a little bit of retraining, they may test and document 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 consumer hasn’t picked up mail, for instance. In some elements of the nation, that perform is formalized underneath a voluntary program known as Service Alert, through which the Postal Service notifies a collaborating 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 useful companies.
In France, since 2017, households have been in a position to pay a small month-to-month payment to La Poste — about 20 euros or $24 — to have dwelling check-ins for an older relative. The service, known as Watch Over My Dad and mom, affords one to 6 visits per week, and the postal employee experiences the resident’s situation to the consumer every time.
Japan launched the same postal program by means of 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 getting old at-home inhabitants.
The put up workplace’s important features — like delivering the federal authorities’s $1,200 pandemic aid checks, mail-in ballots and prescription medicines — are too vital to lose. And USPS funds have improved just lately, partly due to package deal deliveries and a $10 billion mortgage by means of 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 sensible financially and socially for the company to evolve to fulfill the nation’s present wants.
After all, this alone won’t shut the USPS’ $160 billion funds 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 throughout the interval.
Fixing that requirement will take congressional intervention; adjustments may also be wanted in a regulation 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 12 months seeks to loosen the latter restriction to assist the USPS earn cash from companies of “enhanced worth to the general public” (like promoting searching and fishing licenses).
Right this moment, the postal service delivers huge quantities of “spam,” additionally known as unsolicited mail. Firms spend about $167 yearly on unsolicited mail per particular person, yielding good returns, the trade says. However a lot of it finally ends up unread and unopened within the trash or recycling bin, an environmental nightmare.
Why not as an alternative redeploy a few of the U.S. Postal Service’s huge provide of human sources to ship a service our getting old inhabitants — and our nation — desperately wants?