The Obama Administration has given a boost to Senator Ted Kennedy’s national long-term care insurance program, the CLASS Act. In a July 6 letter to Kennedy, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said President Obama believes “it is appropriate to include the CLASS Act as part of health reform.” Obama co-sponsored the bill when he was in the Senate, but has been silent on the issue since he was elected President.
While Obama’s endorsement is a major step forward for the plan, it by no means assures its passage. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has been reluctant to include the proposal in his bill. White House aides have said Obama will not get deeply involved in a final health reform measure until after the House and Senate have passed their versions of reform–probably sometime this fall.
The CLASS Act would provide access to government long-term care insurance to every worker. It would provide a benefit of at least $50 a day for life. Kennedy is aiming for an average premium of $65 per month, although the HHS Secretary would have broad discretion to set both benefits and premiums. Workers would be automatically enrolled, but could opt out of coverage should they choose.
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