Next few days may determine future of CLASS Act

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The Senate Finance Committee's passage of a healthcare reform bill is exciting but also a bit nerve-wracking for many in the long-term care world.

After all, the coming days will reveal whether the CLASS Act makes it into the next round of healthcare reform talks. The act comes from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), which must reconcile its healthcare reform bill with that just passed by the Senate Finance Committee.

That is not likely to be an easy task, as discussions so far have shown.

But the stakes are high. The act, which is part of HELP's Affordable Health Choices Act, would create a long-term care disability insurance program. Essentially, workers who choose to participate can set aside money from their paychecks to pay into an insurance trust. They would then be able to draw on that trust, starting at $50 a day, should they become unable to perform at least two activities of daily living. It is intended to supplement a private insurance policy and would take some of the burden off Medicaid. If passed, it would be the country's first long-term care insurance program. 

The significance of the bill is not lost on the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, which held a "call-in day" Tuesday. Members called their lawmakers and asked them to support the bill.

So how far are leaders willing to go to fight for this bill? President Obama has expressed his support. The Congressional Budget Office has judged it to be fiscally sound, at least for the first 10 years. And, as senators know, it is part of the legacy of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who chaired the HELP committee and fought for universal healthcare.

By all accounts, the bill is on solid footing. But as we have seen, nothing is a slam dunk when it comes to pending legislation.

Since the beginning, AAHSA has used the catchphrase  "a cup of coffee each day,” to sum up the price of the program for each American.

The big question surely will be, is even a plain old-fashioned cup of java still too expensive?


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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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