CLASS-less

Administration putting the long-term care program on ice.

According to various sources, the Obama administration is putting a financially troubled part of the 2010 healthcare reform law on hold, leaving in doubt whether the benefit for disabled Americans will ever be implemented.

Known as CLASS, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program would be a form of long-term care insurance. Specifically, beneficiaries who pay monthly premiums for at least five years would be eligible for daily payments to help with their daily living activities if they become disabled later in life. Beneficiaries could use the money for services to help them stay at home, or to help with nursing home bills.

Dogged by controversy from the very beginning of the healthcare reform debate, CLASS has since languished in bureaucratic limbo…facing persistent criticism from Congressional Republicans who questioned its financial viability and quickly targeted it for repeal.

Technically, as long as CLASS remains on the books, it counts as reducing the deficit within the ten-year estimating window used for federal budget purposes. One would think that quirk alone may make it tempting to maintain at least a shell of a program, but recent Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS) comments appear to highlight the agency’s ambivalence toward the program.

In another interesting development, the White House has apparently requested that Senate Democrats zero out any CLASS funding for the upcoming fiscal year. That is in sharp contrast to the administration’s initial position of $120 million.

Although Congressional champions of CLASS—like Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)—have vowed that they’ll do all they can to keep it alive, it may simply be a case of too little, too late.

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