Candid Thoughts on the Class Act

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By Mark D. Bondi, NHA, JD 

I confess that I did not educate myself on all aspects of the recent health reform legislation. This was partially due to my living through health reform #1 in the 1990s when I wasted many hours learning about something that disappeared as completely as the 2011 Pirates chances to make the playoffs.

But since most of my work involves seniors I did feel compelled to study the part of the health reform legislation known as the Class Act. The Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act.  Recently, I found that I may have wasted my efforts again.

The Class Act was to be a consumer financed and federally administered long term care insurance program. I felt the best part of the program for consumers was the relatively modest premiums that were being discussed along with no lifetime limits on benefits. I repeat NO LIFETIME LIMIT ON BENEFITS. As I discussed this legislation at various educational programs that I conduct with seniors I would point out that The Class Act sounded like a great deal for someone interested in long term care insurance.

I guess that maybe the deal was too good. As you probably now know,  the Class Act was placed on life support on Friday October 14, 2011 when the Secretary of Health and Human Services said that the program’s financial model would just not work. The premiums needed to support the projected funding needs were not viable for a voluntary program. As the program’s costs increased the premiums would need to increase and this would decrease the number of premium payers. A death spiral for any insurance program. Just ask the many private companies who have struggled with providing long term care insurance policies.

It’s good that we found that this program was not viable before it was implemented. But a larger question remains. How do we fix our broken long term care system? The current system forces those who cannot afford to privately pay for care to become indigent so they can qualify for state supported institutional care. Alternately, seniors can be cared for at home by family members or a spouse.  There may family or a spouse who are capable of providing care if they are not working already, and if they can stand the stress of what is often a 24-7 responsibility. There are some programs that are excellent but funding these programs is an issue.

We need to fix our broken long term care “system”. I guess the Class Act was not the answer – bur an answer is needed.

 Mark Bondi is president of Sherwood Oaks Retirement Community in Cranberry Twp. PA.