Talk of federal long-term care benefit won't go away

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If opponents of the CLASS Act think they've beaten down or somehow subdued chief advocate Larry Minnix or his LeadingAge members, they have another thing coming. Despite a week of roiling controversy and confusion that has some official sources leaving it for dead, CLASS still has an active champion in Minnix. That much was abundantly clear in a video interview with McKnight's on Wednesday.

“We're going to continue to fight for it. A lot of the policy issues need to be discussed,” the LeadingAge president and CEO explained. The usually affable leader's ire was raised in particular by what he deemed a disrespectful response earlier this week by a White House spokesman.

“The messages from the administration are conflicting, and a recent kind of communication out of the White House trivializes CLASS,” Minnix said. “This is not a trivial issue. It's not a bug on a windshield. It's not a hood ornament, as it's been called. This is very serious business for every American family, and we believe could be a signature achievement of this president.”

The administration this week said it would not move to repeal the CLASS Act. Yet over the last several months, it has steadily dismantled any framework for implementing it. Workers were released or reassigned, and program implementation was publicly postponed a year, until 2013. And then the biggest bomb dropped last Friday when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote a letter to Congress, as well as a personal column in the Huffington Post, stating that CLASS was untenable and would not be pursued.

Minnix is now calling for creation of a commission as decreed by law to air out “new information” from studies about CLASS.

“Let's put that in the national collaborative arena and then if CLASS needs to be changed, or there's a better way to do it, then somebody show us,” he said. “But shutting down — aborting — discussion about it at this point, we believe, is irresponsible and does not serve the public well."

“It's a little, um, a little ‘dicey' right now in terms of all the relationships involved,” he acknowledged. But that clearly isn't going to deter his public outcry for CLASS.

“CLASS, because it was a law, all of a sudden now makes it a hot and controversial topic. My view about that is just spell the name right,” Minnix said. “As long as it continues its controversy, then people are going to have to talk about these issues.”

Click above to see the full video interview with Minnix. Or click here to read a transcript of the McKnight's interview with Minnix.