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CLASS Act inches a step further in Senate healthcare debate

On December 4, 2009, the CLASS Act of 2009 cleared another hurdle in the Senate healthcare bill debate.

SUMMARY OF THE CLASS ACT OF 2009
(Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act)

Purpose of the Bill:
To help adults with severe functional impairments obtain the services and supports they need to stay functional and independent, while providing them with choices about community participation, education and employment.

Background:
Currently there are 10 million Americans in need of long term services and supports, and the number is expected to increase to near 15 million by 2020.

Most private-sector disability or long-term care insurance plans are constrained in the insurance protection they can offer at an affordable price, and neither Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) nor Old, Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) programs have any benefit differentials related to the extent and character of the disability.

Thus, most Americans who have or develop severe functional impairments can only access coverage for the services critical to their independence (such as housing modifications, assistive technologies, transportation, and personal assistance services), through Medicaid. Their reliance on Medicaid for critical support services creates a strong incentive for them to "spend down" assets and remain poor and unemployed. With Medicaid paying 50% of the costs of long term services, increased expenditures on long term services are expected to add $44 billion annually to the cost of Medicaid over the next decade.