On New Year’s Day, as part of the law that kept the nation from toppling over the fiscal cliff for two months, Congress quietly repealed the Community Living Assistance Services & Support (CLASS) Act, and created a new commission to recommend broad long-term care reforms that could affect financing, delivery and care workers.
I was, and continue to be, very skeptical about the commission’s ability to accomplish much. But after spending this week talking to Washington insiders, I heard several express the hope that the panel could at least achieve two important goals: Defining the problem and broadly framing future solutions.
Just getting a bipartisan commission of Congress to acknowledge the importance of the challenges facing those receiving long-term supports and services and their caregivers would be a huge step forward. Acknowleging that our current system of financing and delivering this care is terribly inadequate would be another big step. And defining the roles of government programs such as Medicaid as well as private insurance would be yet another significant achievement.
Still, that would be a long way from proposing specific reforms–an accomplishment that seems far out of reach for this group. Members of the panel, as I noted last week, must be appointed by the end of this month and the commission has only six months after that to make proposals to Congress. The panel has no budget and will have to rely on staffers from Congress and the executive branch. Its make-up–nine Democratic appointments and only six GOP selections–almost guarantees partisan squabbling.
Worst of all, even if the group could reach a consensus, there is no requirement that Congress ever vote on its plan.
Yet, several veterans of past long-term care battles in Washington are hopeful that this group can at least frame a future debate. I agree that it would be very valuable. And I hope they are right and I am wrong. But I’m not holding my breath.