Healthcare reform is still alive

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The release of President Obama's healthcare reform proposal couldn't have come at a better time. The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging is holding its advocacy conference in the capital this week.

Members will stress to their congressmen the importance of passing a healthcare bill when they visit their lawmakers Tuesday. They will urge them to support the CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports) Act, which has made it into the proposal. The insurance program, which received a lot of publicity during the throes of the healthcare reform debate last year, would allow people to pay into a trust that would give them a cash benefit if they become disabled.

The proposal also would close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole and use Medicaid to expand home- and community-based services. Transparency requirements are also a major part of the proposal.

AAHSA CEO and President Larry Minnix, for one, is impatient for Congress to pass a bill. He wants members to clearly explain to Congress the importance of the CLASS Act.

"Our job is to help them connect the dots," he said.

By connecting the dots, he means explaining that the CLASS Act's cash benefit would allow seniors who are unable to perform acts of daily living to stay in their homes. Injecting private money into the long-term care system also would provide savings to Medicaid, and help the healthcare system as a whole, he argues.

He also likes other elements of healthcare reform, such as preservation of the market basket, and concepts to examine how long-term care interacts with other elements of the healthcare system. Both the House and Senate bills meet AAHSA's criteria and position statement, he said.

Of course, supporters of reform like Minnix recently were disappointed. But he said he still feels hopeful that a bill will pass.

And if one doesn't? Is there a plan B for the CLASS Act?

"Plan B is it's still a good idea," he said. "We're not giving up on it."

Lawmakers, take note. 

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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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