The Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act is a provision under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), intended to help those in need afford long term care. It was one of the more hotly debated sections of the ACA and its future is unclear, even now.
Essentially, CLASS is an insurance program run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that workers can opt to buy into. Participants must pay premiums for five years before benefits can be utilized, but once they do there is no lifetime limit on how long they can receive assistance. Even though the act is now part of the law, some of the details have yet to be finalized – the premium and daily benefit amounts among them.
The intention of CLASS is to give people more support when faced with long term care issues. The flexibility in how the money is spent gives people choices they may not have had before. The benefit could be used to help pay for in home care, for example, or to support the cost of an assisted living facility, which Medicare often does not cover. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 10 million Americans need some type of long term support to manage their daily activities. The burden of such a cost often leaves families desperate for help – a load the CLASS Act is intended to lighten.
The biggest argument against CLASS is cost, as so often is the case. It is intended to be a self-sustaining system that works similarly to Social Security, except that buy-in is optional. Workers paying into the program fund outgoing benefits; therefore, no federal dollars are spent. Proponents of the program believe it will end up saving Medicaid money because it could pay for services that may have otherwise fallen under its umbrella. The concern of many – including HHS, according to an analysis they conducted – is that the premiums won’t be enough to cover costs, and then what happens? This question is one of the details yet to be worked out before the act goes into effect. In addition, Social Security is such a hotbed of political debate that many are reluctant to implement a similar program for fear of running into the same wall again.
Amanda Dean is an expert in senior care with almost two decades of experience. After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in Human Development, Amanda was selected for the highly coveted role at NYU Langone Medical Center as a Geriatric Case Manager. She then founded and ran the largest independent local senior care advisory in NY for 12. Amanda joined Silver Living as the Senior Editor in 2012.