Friday, July 10, 2009

What is the CLASS Act?

As the health care reform debate heats up on Capitol Hill, WOW wants to make sure the final piece of legislation is one that benefits women, their families, and elders. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act of 2009 is one proposed bill being pushed to the health care reform agenda. The CLASS Act would today’s workers afford home and community-based long-term care (LTC) services as they age . It would set up a LTC insurance program for workers to pay into so that when they get older and require assistance, affordable LTC services would be available to them in their home.

According to the Elder Index, LTC costs can double, and even triple an elder’s monthly expenses, moving them further away from economic security, particularly if they cannot already or are barely making ends meet. Implementation of the CLASS Act will cover one quarter to one half of the cost of home and community-based services, allowing elders to age in place in their homes and communities. Employees would donate $30 a month to individual LTC “accounts” and this money would be put aside until their later years.

Currently, elders that need LTC services must pay out-of-pocket. In some instances, Medicare will pay for short-term rehabilitative services. Most elders, however, will be forced to spend down any available assets or income in order to qualify for services under Medicaid. Furthermore, the majority of Medicaid-funded services are available only in institutions, not in people’s homes. This process of spending down into poverty, and into nursing homes, can be prevented with added supports in place to assist in the high costs of LTC.

The Obama Administration expressed support for including the CLASS Act in broader health care reform this week, and we look forward to advocating for its inclusion on Capitol Hill so that future elders can find it a bit easier to make ends meet.

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