Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee hosted a hearing on the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program, a voluntary long-term care insurance program designed to help today's workers afford home and community-based long-term care. St. Patrick's Day seems a fitting time for such a hearing given that much of long-term care comes down to luck for Americans and their families.
The luckiest among us will never suffer a catastrophic health event or accident that leads one to need assistance, with grocery shopping, transportation, bathing, toileting or the like, to stay at home. The luckiest will not manage multiple health conditions in old age causing limited mobility and access to the community. Those less lucky may have some long-term care needs, but will have the resources needed to cover the cost of that care and will access what's available through the private market. WOW's Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) measures what it costs to afford such services, ranging from 6 to 36 hours of home-based services per week in a given state. For instance, in Minnesota, the Elder Index demonstrates that home and community-based long-term care costs from $7,000 to $46,000 per year depending on the level of care required.
Perhaps Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) described it best when, at today's hearing, he said that CLASS would "serve a terrifying unmet need..." Today, 10 million Americans need long-term care services and supports, with 15 million expected to need care by the year 2020. The reality is that most of today's workers and families cannot afford the staggering cost of long-term care. The CLASS program was designed to buffer these costs through a voluntary payroll tax - one that will require no use of federal tax dollars. Further, the CLASS benefit is projected to reduce the federal deficit by $86 billion over the next ten years and save federal and state Medicaid costs.
We need to keep CLASS, both to address the growing long-term care crisis and as a matter of cost savings. More importantly, we need to ensure workers and employers are educated on the program and take advantage of this innovative option. More enrollees will help the program remain affordable for working Americans and fiscally strong over the long term. Ensuring access to affordable long-term care is fundamental to building economic security for persons with disabilities and elders.
Sadly, we will not all be among the luckiest, and so we all have a stake in safeguarding CLASS.
For more on the CLASS program, visit Advance CLASS.