One aspect of the “compromise bill” passed last week to avert the fiscal cliff may eventually have impact on planning for New York long-term care costs. While it does not have any immediate effects for local residents, it is important to discuss as it could lead to proposals down the road to tackle the problem of paying for long-term care. Specifically, a portion of the compromise bill did two things: formally ended the CLASS Act and also created a federal commission to study the issue of financing senior care. Both components are worth discussing more fully.
First, the CLASS Act was a bill passed as part of the comprehensive healthcare law of 2010. The idea was that the measure would create a voluntary, national long-term care insurance program. Our elder law attorneys frequently share information on the merits of long-term care insurance, as it is often the premier way for local residents to ensure they receive high-quality senior care in whatever manner is best for them with minimal disruption of their lives. The major downside, of course, is the costs, which can be prohibitive to many.
Those same cost concerns seem to have been the main problem with the CLASS Act as well. Even though the law was passed in 2010, it had essentially already been abandoned by even its supporters before this formal axing via the fiscal cliff compromise bill. That is mostly because actuaries had determined the program to be far too expensive for most residents to participate anyway.
Alternatively, however, a federal long-term care commission was created with the stated purpose to plan “for the establishment, implementation,and financing of a comprehensive, coordinated, and high-quality system that ensures the availability of long-term services and supports for individuals in need of such services and supports… and individuals desiring to plan for future long-term care needs.”
At first blush this seems like a welcome mission, as the inherent difficulty of planning for and paying for these costs has long-been documented. Our team works directly with local residents on these issues, and we appreciate that far too many families continue to do no planning whatsoever, leaving open a far serious problem down the road when long-term care is unavoidable.
However, some skeptics are worried that the commission will lead to little real policy change. That is because the commission has a very strict (relatively speaking) turnaround time of 6 months for proposals. Even then, Congress is under no requirement to vote on, let alone pass, any of the proposals suggested by the commission. Therefore, we will have to wait and see if anything with real impact for local residents actually comes out of these components of the compromise bill.
Those interesting in learning more can take a look at this Forbes article analyzing the situation.