On Wednesday Congressman Ted Deutch published an editorial in Politico advocating on behalf of a stalled federal initiative known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS). The measure was hailed as the first federal attempt to address the nation’s long-term care crisis. All those in our area who have dealt with the complexities and expense of finding proper New York elder care are likely familiar with this crisis. CLASS was part of the high-profile Affordable Care Act that passed Congress, but CLASS was recently suspended by the President.
The Representative explained that CLASS was essentially a means by which middle class families could have a voluntary and affordable long-term care insurance option. An important part of the CLASS program that needed to be addressed was the idea of “adverse selection”–the notion that insurance would only be bought by those who already needed the care. Of course, the maximum benefit is derived only when individuals have this insurance plan in place ahead of time. The measure is currently stalled specifically because of concerns about adverse selection. Yet, many, including Representative Deutch, believe that federal officials have statutory power to implement anti-adverse-selection measures.
CLASS was pushed by those who understand the looming problem facing the long-term care system. Only five percent of Americans have long-term care insurance, even though seventy to seventy five percent of all Americans will need some form of long-term care. The gap is often replaced by federal programs, like Medicaid. The Congressman explained that the reliance on Medicaid is unsustainable at the federal level. This is in addition to the fact that qualifying for Medicaid often requires residents to spend themselves into poverty, especially when planning is absent. Fixing the problem before it gets worse was the motivation behind CLASS. The measure hopes to steer residents away from the most expensive institutionalized care to more balanced programs that encourage cost-effective and resident-focused community care. Besides the cost savings, these programs are almost always preferred by seniors, because they allow them to live at home, maximizing their freedom.
Our New York elder care attorneys have frequently advised local residents on the benefit of this insurance. Long-term care insurance is simply the best method of ensuring two things: that assets are protected from these costs and that at-home care will be available if needed. As our attorneys have analogized, it is both a sword and a shield that residents can use to protect themselves down the road.
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