With the public option no longer the point of contention in the Senate health care reform debate, and with the reform looking to pass its final senate vote tomorrow, Senate Republicans have turned their attention to the CLASS Act. Rather than discuss taxes or clinging to Medicare cuts, the GOP declared this long-term care insurance program the “new government entitlement” that the public option once was. In fact, this program is not only necessary, it is one of the more progressive aspects of the bill.
The Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act is a long-term care insurance program. Individuals would have the option to purchase insurance for services needed once they are elderly or disabled. Once an individual needs assistance with activities of daily living (dressing, eating, and general hygiene), the insurance would pay for individuals and centers that help with these services.
Interestingly, the program is run through a national insurance pool. Additionally, every employed individual would be enrolled in the program through payroll taxes unless they chose to opt out of the program. Kaiser Family Foundation has a good summary:
Establish a national, voluntary insurance program for purchasing community living assistance services and supports (CLASS program). Following a five-year vesting period, the program will provide individuals with functional limitations a cash benefit of not less than an average of $50 per day to purchase non-medical services and supports necessary to maintain community residence. The program is financed through voluntary payroll deductions: all working adults will be automatically enrolled in the program, unless they choose to opt-out.
The Manager’s Amendment limited the act by no longer allowing purchase of the insurance within the exchange. Aside from that, the House and Senate versions of the program are very similar, although the Senate version starts a year later.
When it comes down to it, our country is on the verge of a fiscal crisis in long term care. As the baby boomer generation gets older and individuals live longer, cost to both our federal and state governments as well as the costs to individuals increases dramatically.
With new research by the MacArthur Foundation study found life expectancy will be higher than current government estimates. The Census Bureau and Social Security Administration estimate the average life expectancy to be 85.3 for females and 80.9 for males by 2050. This study indicates true life expectancy will be up to 93.3 for women and up to 85.9 for males. This 8 year increase could cost Medicare and Social Security $3.2-$8.3 trillion more than current projections.
We must address this problem before it destroys our country’s finances. People must invest in care that will be necessary in the future. The CLASS Act is an insurance program that will not only protect our federal finances, it will protect our seniors.
By Emma Sandoe