Obama Administration And GOPers In Congress Ain’t Got No CLASS

David Dayen of FDL:

The Obama Administration did not notify Congressional supporters of the CLASS Act, a voluntary public long-term care insurance program passed with the Affordable Care Act, before pulling the plug on the idea. Advocates were left blindsided by the official announcement, though the Administration had recently released the chief actuary and shut down the offices doing the implementation of the program.

The Administration was hemmed in by an amendment from former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), now a Goldman Sachs executive, that the program show its fiscal solvency 75 years out. While the CLASS Act would bring in revenue in the early years of the program, under the ACA it would have depleted that money and cost the government over time. And without a mandate, some critics saw a potential adverse selection problem, where the only people using the long-term care insurance were unhealthy, leading to higher program costs.

Still, the alternative is a situation where almost nobody has long-term care insurance, many think Medicare will cover those services (they won’t), and the elderly are frequently starved of their life savings – sometimes the life savings of their children – paying for costly long-term care, before moving onto Medicaid to cover the cost of a nursing home or in-home support services. The CLASS Act meant to solve a problem that still exists and is growing worse.

Regular readers may remember that my late mother was ultimately institutionalized with Alzheimer’s disease, and the week my father would have qualified for Medicaid to pay for her care, she died. No need to go into details again; I say this only to emphasize that the need is real, it is acute, and it affects people you actually know.

So here we are, with Sen. Judd Gregg (R-Goldman Sachs) making our decisions on the course of long-term care for us. I can understand his motivations all too well: the real problem with long-term care is that there’s no money in it. Ask anyone who has experienced what my family did; they’ll tell you that the caregivers (care-sellers is more appropriate) drain you as quickly as they can, and Medicaid (at least in Texas) avoids providing help for as long as it can. So institutional elder care is not a big money-maker like cardio surgery, largely because it is such a money sink that no one can afford it.

I don’t know the answer to this problem. I’m sure former Sen. Gregg would demand that seniors who are medically past being saved and financially utterly drained NOT be allowed to choose euthanasia; after all, that would be immoral, and besides, it would allow old people to choose their own exit before the powers-that-be have drained every possible penny from their accounts. For many illnesses, Alzheimer’s being a good example, home care by family members is not an option past a certain point, as I’m sure some of you have experienced… with those illnesses, just keeping the person breathing is emphatically a medical problem, not a custodial care problem.

So the Obama administration, pressured by Republican-sponsored provisions in the bill, pulled the plug, not on seniors who are barely alive but on the program designed to keep them that way. Truly our guvmint ain’t got no CLASS.

 

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