Givers app wants to help family carers save money

Melanie Shulman, 60, had envisioned a relatively carefree retirement. Over the past few years, however, her family has been blindsided by a series of painful losses. Her father died suddenly in 2020 and soon after her mother began treatment for dementia. “I became his main caregiver,” she says. “I worked 12 hours a day and took care of [my] the kids were leaving the house, and it was really, really hard.

Three months later, her stepfather also died and her stepmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. After months of struggling to manage her caregiving responsibilities alongside her job, spending her evenings managing prescriptions and doctor’s appointments, Shulman made the difficult decision to retire early. “I couldn’t break myself into pieces anymore,” she said. “It was time.”

Still, Shulman could do little to ease the financial burden of caring for two parents: her mother alone needed 24-hour care that amounted to $4,000 a week out of her own pocket. A friend recommended that she consider Donors, a refund platform that promised to bring some relief. “When I was dealing with parents and going through meds and doctors and everything, the last thing I wanted to do was go on the computer, but I said, let me try,” she says. “It just spoke to me. I was really excited about the possibility of finding financial benefits that I didn’t even know existed.

For Shulman and other family caregivers, the physical and emotional burden of caring for loved ones is so overwhelming that it can seem impossible to review potential reimbursements or determine what benefits they might be entitled to, even if medical bills are piling up. Givers, coming out of beta with a $3.5 million seed round, wants to help caregivers do just that, sifting through a complex matrix of tax credits, state programs, health insurance benefits and other potential sources of savings.

“There’s no good system for that right now,” says Max Mayblum, founder and CEO of Givers. “As we talk to people about our [caregiving] community, we find that most don’t even know what’s available to them.

The platform was partly inspired by Mayblum’s own frustrating experience trying to help his parents care for his grandparents and late aunt, which led him to realize that he didn’t There was no clear, authoritative source for refund information. Most caregivers relied on an ad hoc network of Facebook groups and blogs to track down this kind of information (if they knew how to look for it). This lack of infrastructure is also a problem for programs looking to distribute funds, according to Mayblum. A recent pilot program in Arizona, for example, set aside $1 million to reimburse families who added ramps and grab bars to their homes, but only ends up distributing $130,000 because they couldn’t get the message across effectively. “This is a multi-$100 billion funding pool for caregivers that is pretty much locked in or behind red tape and bureaucracy,” Mayblum says.

With Givers, Mayblum is looking to close that gap. When caregivers register with the platform, Givers begins to analyze their profiles and expenses to determine their eligibility for a number of potential reimbursements. This may include federal tax credits, such as the Child and Dependent Care Credit–as well as state-level tax breaks that specifically target caregivers. Then there are funds for veterans and savings that caregivers can accumulate through Medicaid and Medicare. To streamline this process, the company launched the Givers Card, a Visa debit card that members can use to separate their care expenses.

Donors take a cut of the savings they uncover for members through a 40% fee, which is slightly lower than what invoice negotiation services generally charge to help consumers save money on monthly bills (although this is not an exact comparison). But Givers charges no membership fees, meaning the company only makes money if it saves money for users — a nod to value-based healthcare, which binds payments for quality of care. “The model was all about aligning incentives, sort of focusing on value creation,” Mayblum says. “And I’ve seen it trickle down to the values ​​of the company and our efforts to achieve those savings for our members. Because it is the cornerstone of our business.

Thousands of caregivers have already started using Givers in beta, saving an average of $4,000 per year. (Despite a “minimal” marketing budget, Mayblum says Givers adds more than a thousand new members every month, largely by word of mouth.) But that’s only a fraction of the population that could benefit. of lowering the barrier to access: Even before the pandemic, at least 53 million Americans were carrying out unpaid care responsibilities, according to a 2020 report by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

Between an aging population and labor shortages in the long-term care industry – not to mention the devastation of the pandemic – the burden on caregivers will only continue to increase, with women disproportionately bearing the impact. Part of Givers’ appeal to CRV partner Kristin Baker Spohn, the lead investor in Givers’ round, was that it was not an employer-based solution, which does not would only benefit a handful of caregivers. “I was looking for that broader, scalable distribution [and] sustainable business model that can provide better and faster support to caregivers,” she says.

Beyond reimbursements, Givers is positioning itself as a more comprehensive resource for caregivers by offering one-on-one coaching and a community forum. The company is also building a marketplace that offers discounts on popular products for caregivers (and doubles as a source of affiliate revenue for the company). The marketplace currently offers 10 to 15 products, including Hero’s smart pill box and Aloe Care Health’s wearable drop detector, but Mayblum hopes to eventually stock hundreds of items. “A number of companies in our market today are companies that I recommended to my own parents,” he says. “I am thrilled to see how streamlining the research process to find the best product for my own family can benefit [other] caregivers. »

The prospect of finding savings through Givers was certainly the first attraction for Shulman. She’s currently on track to save at least $2,000, though that’s a small amount when juxtaposed against her overall expenses. (“Anything I can get my hands on that might offset some of the costs is helpful,” she points out.) But after spending time on Givers, she’s excited about the access to the board, and even to the community, which feels more intimate than a large Facebook group. “You see other people are kind of in the same situation,” she says. “Even if you don’t know them, you hear their stories and you hear how they are doing. And it is useful.

Jennifer C. Burleigh