Is CLASS really over?

Like thousands of other long-term care industry providers, educators, advocates, vendors (and journalists) making final preparations to attend this week’s LeadingAge annual meeting in Washington, D.C., I spent last Friday afternoon wrapping up loose ends at work and confirming trip arrangements. And then came the late-day announcement (as big announcements often come from the federal government): The much debated national long-term care insurance program known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act was effectively dead in the water.

So it was with much anticipation this morning that I attended LeadingAge’s CLASS Act Briefing and Policy Forum. There, a panel of policy experts and CLASS Act advocates spoke before a packed room of conference attendees and media—and made a strong case for reviving the troubled initiative.

The takeaways: CLASS is not an initiative set in stone. The details can be changed within the authority of the law. CLASS can and should work in conjunction with the private insurance industry. There are alternatives that should be taken into consideration by the administration; the baby needn’t be thrown out with the bathwater. “We are continuing the conversation,” said Connie Garner, PhD, Advance CLASS, Inc. “There’s no reason the conversation can’t continue. The problem is not going away.

“We believe the administration still has the authority to move forward and we expect the president to move forward,” said Garner.

Marketing CLASS has been a challenge and an issue that hasn’t really been addressed, said Bob Yee, FSA, and one of the actuaries who worked with Health and Human Services on the act’s feasibility. Yee talked about the various models that had been studied and admitted that “we need to find the right instrument to make this work. It’s been a challenge. But there are workable designs.”

LeadingAge CEO Larry Minnix wrapped up the discussion with a passionate plea for the cause. “We can’t reform healthcare without considering long-term care,” said Minnix. “It’s premature to shut off discussion. It’s time for public discourse—not time to shut down.

“I suspect it’s more about politics than policy,” he continued. “The day it happens to you, your children or your parents—all of a sudden it levels the playing field.”

Topics: Advocacy