CLASS Act on the move

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The House's passage of the CLASS Act clearly has offered momentum for the disability insurance program. Leaders of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging are convinced there is no stopping it now.

“I fully expect it to be in a final bill,” Larry Minnix, president and CEO of the organization told me this week during the annual AAHSA conference, which was held in Chicago. (You can see my interview with Minnix on the right-hand size of the McKnight's home page.)

Minnix and other experts in the organization, such as Barbara Manard and Marsha Greenfield, believe the CLASS (Community Living Services and Support) Act would transform the way people view long-term care in the United States. While there is private insurance, the products have been too expensive and, as a result, have not taken hold here, they say. Also, private insurance can be inflexible, not covering all desired services, for example.

The act would create a trust that workers would pay into to the tune of at least $65 a month. Those workers would then be eligible to receive a cash benefit—an average of $50 a day—for home care if they become disabled.

To naysayers who believe the program would contribute to the federal deficit? Just look at the facts from the federal government, AAHSA proponents say. The Congressional Budget Office already has determined it to be “actuarially sound,” or self-sustainable. It is expected to increase revenues for the first 10 years. 

Still, it's fair to debate the long-term success of the CLASS Act. While it would decrease the deficit by $58 billion from 2010 to 2019, it's not yet entirely certain what would happen after that. The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services regularly would have to determine whether the program would be self-sustaining.

But other than seven grumbling senators, there hasn't been too much grousing. It also enjoys strong support from the White House.

Given that there are plenty of other provisions in healthcare reform to fight over—that little detail known as the public option and a new abortion amendment—the CLASS Act very well may make it into a bill under the radar. 

We shall soon see if it comes to pass.

Two groups come together

One of the more interesting and understated aspects of the CLASS Act is the way it joined a long-term care organization with the community of disabled people.

“It all came together in a very powerful synergy,” Minnix said in his interview.

Traditionally, these two groups have been at odds. It was advocates of young, disabled people who began the push for the CLASS Act. AAHSA picked up on it and convinced the late Sen. Edward Kennedy to expand the provision to include long-term care.

The association has been tenacious in its advocacy efforts with call-in days and its recruitment of national ambassadors to push for the act.

As remarkable as it would be if the CLASS Act passes, just as impressive is the groups' ability to find common ground. A precedent has been set. I wouldn't be surprised if the long-term care and disability communities work more closely on other issues together. More power to them.  


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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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