The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program—without offering any alternative to address the long-term care concerns of many Americans.
Passed as part of the health care reform act, the CLASS program is a voluntary, consumer driven long-term care insurance plan. The Department of Health and Human Services suspended its efforts to implement the program in October 2011. The House vote took pace Feb. 1, 2012.
The program was designed to help individuals manage long-term-care services in their home or community. Currently 10 million Americans need long-term care, and that number is expected to hit 15 million by 2020. But only about 8 percent of people buy private long-term-care insurance, which for many can be prohibitively expensive.
In addition, said Lee Page, Paralyzed Veterans’ associate advocacy director, veterans and others with spinal cord injuries and diseases may require long-term care for life. Veterans with catastrophic injuries, such as spinal cord injury, normally receive long-term-care services through VA; however, most veterans do not.
“Paralyzed Veterans for years has been on the forefront seeking alternative methods to provide long-term care for veterans and all people with disabilities or chronic conditions,” Page said.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) agrees. “Repealing CLASS won’t do anything to solve our nation’s long-term care crisis,” he has said. Rockefeller leads Senate efforts to address long term care needs by amendment rather than repeal.
However, “Republicans are committed to repealing and defunding it, piece by piece if necessary,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said of the health care bill after the CLASS Act vote.
Twenty years ago, the bipartisan Pepper Commission voted overwhelmingly (11 to 4) in favor of a major long-term care initiative, but little progress has been made in that area.
“Congress must act to solve the long term services and supports problem as retiring baby boomers will face a litany of chronic conditions. The CLASS program will help keep consumers in their home instead of having to impoverish themselves to qualify for Medicaid," Page said. "If not now ... when ?”
Paralyzed Veterans of America will continue to monitor federal efforts to support long-term care efforts.