Ensuring Independence As We Age
By Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging
Today, approximately 10 million Americans need help with everyday living activities, such as eating, moving around, or bathing; these services are called long-term services and supports. That number will grow to 15 million by 2020. While most of these individuals get help informally from friends and relatives, the rest receive paid services at home, in community settings, or in institutions. The number relying on paid services grows with age from about 7% for people age 65 to 31% for those 85 or older.
It’s not that surprising that most people haven’t planned for the possibility of needing this kind of help. First, it’s not pleasant to think about getting this kind of intimate help. And second, people who want to plan really haven’t had many choices. The Affordable Care Act changes that, with the inclusion of the CLASS Program.
The CLASS Program is a national, voluntary program that will be available after October 2012 to help you plan ahead to pay for services and supports that help you stay independent. It is an ambitious program to help working individuals to help themselves.
Given the rising demand for these services, we want to make the CLASS Program a success. To do so, we are committed to three basic principles that adhere to the cornerstones of the CLASS statute:
- Consumers who choose to must be able to direct their own services.
- There will be no underwriting of the type found in private long-term care insurance.
- The program will be solvent in the short term and over a 75 year horizon. No federal funds will be used to pay for benefits to enrollees of the CLASS program.
The Department of Health and Human Services has spent the months since passage of the health care law reviewing the new program and how it fits into our long-term services and supports context.
We’ve also discussed CLASS with its strongest supporters and its toughest critics. In addition to conducting our own policy and actuarial work, we’ve reviewed all the major analyses of CLASS and discussed them with actuaries, economists, program and policy experts, and other stakeholders in and outside of government.
Finally, and most importantly, we have spoken with Americans all over the country about what they are looking for in terms of peace of mind and financial protections against the potentially devastating costs of long-term services and supports.
We want to make sure that Americans get affordable support and care they need, at any age, without being financially prohibited from services. Reforming the CLASS Program is one step in that direction.
To read Secretary Sebelius’ remarks today on the CLASS program, click here.