The CLASS Program
By Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary of Aging
There is a critical and growing need to provide long-term services and supports for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Help with everyday activities like dressing, bathing or taking medication can make the difference between staying in the community and going into a nursing home. Long-term care helps people remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible. It can be a literal lifeline for millions of Americans.
But long-term care is expensive and it can be difficult for people to buy insurance that will cover these costs. This means increasing numbers of Americans will be faced with leaving the workforce and spending down their life savings in order to qualify for Medicaid. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program was included in the Affordable Care Act in an effort to help Americans forced to choose between assistance and poverty gain access to affordable insurance assistance.
Some policymakers have questioned whether the CLASS program is the right way to make long-term care affordable and sustainable. The challenge of assuring the solvency of CLASS has been the subject of reports and analyses since before it became law.
Recognizing these concerns, Congress included an important safeguard in the law, written by then-Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), that conditions implementation of the CLASS program on a determination by the Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) that it will be solvent over a 75-year period.
The Secretary has repeatedly said she takes this responsibility seriously and has firmly stated that she will not go forward with the CLASS program unless it is financially solvent, sustainable and consistent with the statute. Our commitment to financial solvency has driven our work on CLASS over the past 18 months.
During this time we have examined the long-term care market, conducted consumer research, modeled possible plan designs, consulted actuaries inside and outside of government, and analyzed the requirements of the CLASS statute. We are looking at the CLASS program from every angle. We are doing our due diligence.
We recently received a report from the actuary retained by CLASS which provides the actuarial analysis of a number of potential CLASS benefit plans. This report will be included in its entirety in a comprehensive review of our work on CLASS over the last 18 months.
We are now reviewing the findings of the actuarial report in combination with the legal and policy analyses that we have undertaken as part of our careful exploration of the many aspects of operationalizing the CLASS program. Once this work is complete, HHS will issue a report along with recommendations about how to proceed. We are on target to release our comprehensive report by mid-October.