Will Congress Repeal the CLASS Act?

Every time over the past 6 weeks that I have read that Congress and the President are close to agreement on legislation that will reduce the federal budget as a condition for raising the debt ceiling,  12 hours later, I read that it has fallen apart.  Since, like all of us, I have plenty on my plate, I resolved not to read any more articles until a deal was finalized.  After all, what’s the point of trying to understand a plan that isn’t going to be implemented anyway?

I broke that resolution this morning when I read the Executive Summary of the plan developed by “The Gang of Six.”  Their plan, which includes both cost cutting and revenue increases, is fairly general at this point, which is why the specific recommendation to “repeal the CLASS Act” jumped out at me. 

As I described in this blog back in March, the CLASS Act is designed to establish a national system of long term care insurance.  It would allow employees to use a voluntary, government-sponsored insurance program  to pay premiums through payroll deduction, and then receive a cash benefit when they can’t perform at least two of their  activities of daily living, whether due to old age or a disability caused by disease or accident that could occur at any age.  It isn’t designed to cover the full cost (so would never replace the benefits of private long term care insurance for those who qualify, and can afford it), but it would offset some of a family’s burden for long long term care.

Many details of the program have yet to be completed, and lots of smart people have expressed concern that the program won’t work, because only those who have a condition that makes them uninsurable in the private market will participate.  Since the program is designed to be cost-neutral, this may make the premiums unaffordable for the very people for whom the Act was intended.  Precisely because of these concerns, the Act requires the collection of premiums for 5 years before anything is paid out. In addition to that requirement, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Act, when fully implemented, will save the government money by preventing, or at least delaying, the need for some individuals to turn to Medicaid to cover the cost of this care.

I try hard not to be cynical, but something seems odd about the inclusion of a specific directive to repeal this one law  in a 5 page summary of sweeping economic reform.  If this alarms you, too, you might want to check out the website of an organization called AdvanceClass, at http://www.advanceclass.org/, which is an advocacy group dedicated to the implementation of the CLASS Act and other initiatives to make long term care affordable.

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