Friday, November 20, 2009

Recognizing the Needs of Elders in the Health Care Bill

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was released by the Senate on Wednesday night, interested parties quickly began to go through the bill and make comparisons to the House version (PathWays PA's comparison is up on our blog). While it didn't draw much attention, one piece of the bill that remained from the House version is the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act.

In the United States today, 10 million Americans need long-term care services and supports, yet the cost of this care can double or even triple the expenses elders face in their retirement years. Under CLASS, older adults and the disabled would be better able to access care in their homes through the creation of national long-term care insurance by providing a minimum benefit of $50 per day to purchase non-medical long-term care services and supports. As the Elder Economic Security Standard for Pennsylvania shows, home and community-based long-term care services cost between $6,514 to $35,261 per year depending on the level of care required, or between $17.84 to $96.61 per day.

To provide this minimum benefit of at least $50 per day, the CLASS Act would create a voluntary payroll deduction for workers - employees would be automatically enrolled until they choose to opt out. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the program would save $59 billion in spending over the first ten years, including $2.5 billion in Medicaid spending (after which time it might need to be adjusted).

As you continue to talk to your legislators about the importance of health care legislation, please ask them to support keeping the CLASS Act in the final version of health care reform. Saving for long-term care now may be the tool that allows your parents (or you) to stay in your home with dignity in retirement.

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