Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) dropped its efforts to implement the CLASS Act. The CLASS program is a national, voluntary insurance program that was supposed to be available after October 2012 to help pay for services and supports that help citizens maintain independence in the community.
Included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act was intended to be a government-run program to allow individuals to voluntarily purchase long-term care insurance. It has been under a constant threat of not being funded and also that it would be too expensive to administer and run.
At some point in our lives, most of us will need daily help because of a disability. It could be nursing home care in the final months of our lives. Or it could be a home health aide who comes by a few hours a week to help with daily tasks, giving us the freedom to live and work in our community for years.
As time goes by, even more of us will require these kinds of long-term services and supports in order to live our lives as we wish to live them. But this comes at a cost and with the cost of healthcare rising every year, many of us will struggle to pay for this care.
Most of us think that Medicare will pay for their long-term care, but it only pays for brief nursing home stays. Medicaid offers broader coverage, but many families aren’t eligible until their savings are virtually exhausted. It was with the hope of giving all of us better choices that CLASS came into life last year.
In another 10 years, as the percentage of older population increases, we know that most of us will need some kind of long-term care. If we want our family members, friends, and neighbors to be able to live with the maximum amount of freedom and independence, we need to make sure they have access to the long-term supports that make that possible.
The administration officials say that CLASS was a stand-alone program and one that wouldn’t have any effect on other portions of health reform. I’m not convinced. If a small program like CLASS can’t be funded, I wonder what will happen to the other programs that are part of the reform. Time only will tell.