While it's good that Congressional Republicans and Democrats - dubbed the Gang of 6 - are talking with each other in efforts to avoid a debt default, their recommendation to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS Act) is shortsighted at a time America needs vision.
The CLASS Act is a component of the health reform law that establishes a national, voluntary insurance program for purchasing community living services and supports for people who become functionally disabled and require long-term help.
Most People Have No Coverage
Most people don't have have long-term care coverage to help provide care or supportive services for people living with Alzheimer's or other longer term illnesses or physical disabilities. The joint federal/state Medicaid program - in which one must be impoverished to qualify - becomes the default insurance plan for many, which is unsustainable for the federal and Minnesota's state budget. Yes, there is private insurance, but only about 7 million people nationally have it. Many can't afford it, and it's often unavailable to those who have preexisting conditions.
CBO Analysis and Public Support
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said CLASS will reduce the budget deficity by $83 billion over 10 years, and a Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard Poll found that 76% of Americans support the CLASS Act.
While CLASS is a supplemental plan that won't cover everything, it would allow people to direct their dollars for services they desire, increasing independence. For example, this could help someone with Multiple Sclerosis or Alzheimer's pay for home care service. It would be available to young people with disabilities, not only seniors with disabilties. CLASS could help extend private insurance policies, such as Medigap policies do now for Medicare. It also could interact with state reforms, such as those put forth recently by the non-partisan Citizens League. And by keeping more people out of government-financed nursing homes, and having more people use their own dollars, it would help reduce Medicaid costs.
Prior to the CLASS Act's public release, the Administration on Aging is working to ensure it's long-term sustainability. Progess should be allowed to continue on the CLASS Act. The last time a serious effort ocurred nationally to address this dire "absence of coverage" was the late 1980s. Scrapping CLASS altogether is a lost opportunity for fiscal innovation that would make lives better.