On Thursday, I’ll be participating in an Urban Institute panel on the future of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, the new national voluntary long-term care insurance program in the 2010 health reform law. It should be an interesting discussion, with other participants including Marty Ford, cochair of the Long Term Services and Supports Task Force, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities; Rhonda Richards of AARP; Al Schmitz of actuaries Milliman, Inc; and my Urban colleagues Rich Johnson and Brenda Spillman. If you’d like to listen in, either in-person on on the Web, register here.
The more pressing question, however, is whether CLASS will live long enough to be fixed. As regular readers of the Caring for Our Parents blog know, I’v been arguing for more than a year that while CLASS is poorly designed, it is an important step toward an insurance-based system of financing long-term care and away from relying on an increasingly troubled Medicaid system. Today, Medicaid spends more than $110 billion on long-term care, and finances nearly half of all such assistance. Most analysts agree, but many on Capitol Hill have no interest in repairing CLASS. They simply want to kill it.
In a series of congressional hearings over the past month, Republicans and some Democrats have been building a record to justify repealing CLASS. Last week, at a hearing of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, one GOP member, Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia, called CLASS “a Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme run by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The hearing barely ended before Gingrey introduced a bill to repeal the program.
If Hill critics can’t kill CLASS outright, they will try to block the $120 million in funding the Obama Administration has requested to get the program off the ground. While outright repeal may not pass, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some funding choked off.
Killing CLASS is counterproductive, since without it the frail elderly, adults with disabilities, and their families will be left with only their own insufficient resources and an increasingly underfunded Medicaid program to finance their long-term care supports and services, whether in their homes or in nursing facilities. A handful, only about 7 million, have private long-term care insurance.
CLASS needs to be reformed, and we’ll discuss how at this week’s Urban Institute panel. Killing it will do no one any good.