"House health care legislation expected within days is likely to include a new long-term care insurance program to help seniors and disabled people stay out of nursing homes, senior Democrats say," The Associated Press
reports. "The voluntary program would begin to close a gap in the social safety net overlooked in the broader health care debate, but it must overcome objections from insurance companies that sell long-term care coverage and from fiscal conservatives."
The average cost of a nursing home is $70,000, which many struggle to afford. "Medicare only covers temporary nursing home stays. Middle-class households have to go through their savings before an elder can qualify for nursing home coverage through Medicaid." The new proposal, called the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, or CLASS Act, has the support of President Barack Obama. "In return for modest monthly premiums while they are working, people would receive a cash benefit of at least $50 a day if they become disabled. The money could be used to pay a home care attendant, purchase equipment and supplies, make home improvements such as adding bathroom railings, or defray the costs of nursing home care. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the program would be fiscally solvent over a 75-year period, assuming an initial monthly premium of $123 and a $75 daily benefit" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/27).