Heavenly intercession for the CLASS Act?

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CMS proposes more rigorous emergency preparedness rules for long-term care facilities
CMS proposes more rigorous emergency preparedness rules for long-term care facilities

The good news is politicians can always change their minds. The bad news is, well, politicians can always change their minds.

That must be the mixed feelings that many providers — Larry Minnix and his faithful crew at LeadingAge foremost among them — carry in their heads right now. It was little over a year ago when President Obama finally signed sweeping healthcare reform into law, and with it the much-debated CLASS Act. Agreement, finally, on the central government's first stab at a long-term care insurance plan!

But now, amid talks to stave off a U.S. debt default, CLASS advocates are left wondering what happened. It's no surprise that Republicans have nodded enthusiastically at plans to ax the CLASS Act, but Democrats and the White House, too? Hey, politicians change their minds.

The nation's leaders (we'll use "politicians" instead of the more stately sounding "lawmakers") of the two main political parties are playing chicken with each other, risking a global financial crisis in the process.  The CLASS Act is winding up on the back burner. Well, front burner if you emphasize the "burn" part of it. What's particularly disturbing is it's not even being bandied about as a bargaining chip. You know, "I'll give up something I want if you give up the CLASS Act." Based on events of the last week, seemingly everyone is serving up CLASS on a platter. No second thoughts. Cuts must be made somewhere, and it looks like CLASS is on its way out.

But the deed is not done yet. And that's where the good news above comes in, remember?

If nothing else, Minnix and his foot soldiers must be commended for fighting a good fight when it comes to CLASS. They've been the coach, star player and chief cheerleader on this one. Others in the long-term realm have seemingly been content to sit on the sidelines.

Tuesday could go a long way toward sealing the CLASS Act's fate. Either there will be a show of force in favor of it, or it's liable to be tranquilized for good. That's the day that LeadingAge — on behalf of all long-term care stakeholders — will host a call-in day to "Save CLASS." You don't have to be a LeadingAge member to take part. You can get credit for this "summer school" session simply by calling (888) 785-9795 and telling a member (or four) of Congress three main reasons why repealing CLASS would be a mistake, according to organizers. They are:

1. CLASS will allow more American families a way to plan for future supports and services. It will allow more people to remain in their homes.

2. CLASS saves money. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that CLASS will cut the budget deficit by $83 billion over 10 years. That's some serious cash, and it isn't just Minnix Math.

3. A Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard poll shows that 76% of Americans support the CLASS Act program.

With the future of the nation's economy in question — so much so that even a few hiccups could send financial markets around the world into devastating convulsions — the drive to save CLASS is an uphill proposition. But it's one that has to be met head-on, Minnix emphasizes.

"We must persuade the public and our political leaders that CLASS is a risk worth taking, with little downside," he says in a recent article. "The risk of the status quo is predictable, unacceptable, and catastrophic. CLASS is the angel we don't know versus the devil we know all too well."

Good news or bad news? We?ll soon find out.

Daily Editors' Notes

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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