Kennedy's CLASS Act Would Establish National Long Term Care Insurance

Congress is starting to tackle long-term care through a measure for a national long-term insurance program, according to the New York Times The New Old Age blog.

The Times reports: "Generally overlooked in the debate over health care reform... is the C.L.A.S.S. Act, a bill introduced by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, that would establish a national long-term care insurance program. The idea has circulated for years, but now advocates think there's a real possibility such a plan will be incorporated into whatever health care bill emerges from Congress. The C.L.A.S.S. Act (short for Community Living Assistance Services and Support, if you're wondering) could transform the way people pay for long-term care. Participants would receive daily benefits — money they could use to pay for home care, adult day programs, assisted living or nursing homes — whether they're elderly or young and disabled. To date, two of the five Congressional committees working on a health care overhaul have adopted the proposed legislation; the others have yet to vote."

The blog post included an interview with Barbara Manard, a health economist with the American Association of Housing and Services for the Aging, who worked with Mr. Kennedy's staff to draft the legislation. When asked about the basic idea behind the CLASS Act, Manard responded: "It creates a national insurance trust that people can voluntarily participate in. It's a publicly sponsored insurance plan, to make it as low-cost as possible. You pay a monthly premium. If you become disabled and need assistance with activities of daily living [A.D.L.'s] at any age, you can qualify for a daily cash benefit on the order of about $50 to $75 a day, depending on your level of disability. The legislation doesn't set specific benefits. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will develop the details. It has to be actuarially sound and self-sustaining" (Span, 7/22).

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