CBS Downplays Costs, Advocates Company's 'Elder Care' Benefits

     “Just $15 a day.”

     By using that phrase, CBS “Evening News” spun a February 21 story about “progressive” corporations providing assistance to employees trying to take care of mom and dad.

     “Freddie Mac provides emergency elder home care for which employees pay just $15 a day,” said correspondent Kelly Wallace as she listed several corporations already providing such benefits to their workers.

     The language downplayed the cost of such benefits, which amount to $5,475 per year. That is not exactly chump change; it is nearly 12 percent of the 2005 U.S. median household income. There was also no mention of how much of the cost is picked up by the company itself. Viewers were left wondering if it is an opt-in program for only those who need it or if all the employees at Freddie Mac have to pay.

      Wallace noted that corporations benefit from providing elder care services, as explained in the story by Freddie Mac’s Director of Benefits Mary Ann O’Connor.

     “By offering something like this definitely helps Freddie Mac because they are coming to work and they are being productive. They can focus on the job at hand,” O’Connor said.

      Instead “Evening News” was so clearly in favor of companies providing elder care benefits it scolded ones that don’t.

     “Corporate America has a long way to go,” Wallace stated. “Only about one in four companies offers any elder-care benefits.”

     Couric encouraged workers to ask for these benefits: “experts suggest you and your co-workers go to your human resources department and let it be known that you want them, maybe in exchange for another benefit you don’t use.”

     “Evening News” did not look for any downside to the cost of elder care benefits, despite companies like Ford who are struggling in part because of expensive benefit payouts.