Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP, MACE
The CLASS Act was another ill-conceived part of President Obama’s healthcare reform act. President Obama and HHS (Health and Human Services) realized that this social entitlement program was going to be another entitlement disaster. CLASS would have cost the taxpayers an additional $75 billion per year when it was passed on the condition of being budget neutral.
CLASS was discontinued before it could join other entrenched government entitlement programs that are unsustainable.
CLASS quietly became an amendment to President Obama’s healthcare reform act. There was little discussion about CLASS when the Democrats in congress passed President Obama’s healthcare reform act. There was little discussion until Kathleen Sibelius’ announcement to discontinue CLASS.
“ the administration was shutting down Class. After 19 months of research and consultation, “we have not identified a way to make Class work at this time.”
There has been little discussion about CLASS since her announcement.
CLASS was slipped into Obamacare as a legacy of to Senator Edward M. Kennedy. It establishes the first national system of long-term care insurance.
- It was voluntary;
- It was to pay a cash benefit that each recipient could decide how to use.
- It could not disqualify participants with pre-existing disabilities or charge them more.
- It had to pay for itself without relying on taxpayer dollars.
- It was to provide long-term care for the elderly and disabled.
- The program is not meant to shoulder the whole cost of long-term care, for either the elderly or younger people with disabilities, but it could make a great difference to strapped families.
- It would typically cover home care, assisted living, adult daycare, nursing home, and Alzheimer’s facilities for those who needed it,
- There would have been no apparent age or time limits for benefits.
- No underwriting in the selection of beneficiaries.
CLASS was designed to collect “premiums” during employees’ working years and spend the money immediately.
When the obligations came due, the program would have been forced to seek a taxpayer bailout. “This is called redistribution of wealth.”
Medicare benefits typically pay for nursing home and home care coverage typically only for relatively short -term recovery (21 days) from an acute illness.
Medicare beneficiaries who need long term care beyond their benefits but don’t have private supplemental long term care insurance must pay out of pocket.
CLASS would pay recipients $50 a day for in-home care assistant to help with cooking, cleaning, and bathing. This sounds cheap. However it would cost the government over $18,000 a year per person.
There are no signup restrictions and no increased premiums based on overall health and age at the time of signup.
The vast majority of the voluntary participants would be the sickest and most in need of long term care. There is no way that a voluntary program could be budget neutral.
CLASS like Medicare would have few restrictions on the amount and types of care that beneficiaries receive.
Advocates for “health care is a right” are stuck with the dilemma what to do with a severely demented 99 year old nursing home patient with terminal cancer. Should that patient receive the same life extending care as a 65 year old with no medical problems?
This is a moral and legal dilemma that society must face. Patients and their family should make that decision.
It is immoral for a group of bureaucrats to decide on treatment for the individual. It is equally questionable to have physicians decide to withhold treatment
It is one of the reasons patients should own their healthcare dollars and be responsible for how they spend them. Patients and their families should have some skin in the game.
The government could provide some of the healthcare dollars for those who qualify.
If those dollars are not spent at the end of the year, patients and their family would keep them. This would provide incentive to make logical decisions about the consumption of medical care.
There is no evidence that nursing home care or home assistance care or assisted living or adult day care increase life expectancy. These services provide comfort for the elderly and their children.
Rather than providing complete medical care for the elderly in the hope of extending life, less expensive ways can be devised to provide comfort other than warehouseing the elderly in nursing homes.
CLASS would have provided minimal financial assistance in providing comfort to the infirmed elderly. With mounting budget deficits America cannot even afford minimal help.
Basically CLASS was an insurance plan without any of the rational limits and restrictions that real insurance companies use to prevent themselves from going bankrupt. President Obama’s CLASS Act could never work. After the government spent $75 billion dollars a year on a tax neutral plan, he would say “OOPS”. America would enjoy the luxury of another money draining entitlement program.
The “healthcare insurance” paradigm for providing healthcare to the elderly must be changed. Patients must be motivated to be responsible for their own care.
President Obama has tried to keep the conversation about discontinuing CLASS, another entitlement program, to a minimum.
The realization of the failure of CLASS should be used to think about healthcare coverage from a different perspective rather than letting our politicians making the same mistakes over and over again.
The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.