IQ expert Dr. Marion Somers: What’s next after dismissal of CLASS Act?
Q: Given that the CLASS program was just suspended, what does that mean for the future of long-term care insurance?
A: Thank you for your question. On Oct. 14, 2011, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the CLASS Act would be “suspended” indefinitely.
|Dr. Marion Somers:
In the Long Term
|Dr. Marion Somers is the author of “Elder Care Made Easier: Doctor Marion’s 10 Steps to Help You Care for an Aging Loved One.”|
The CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Support) Act was included in the federal health care reform law, which was enacted in 2010. As laid out, the government-run program would let American workers voluntarily pay insurance premiums toward their own long-term care, such as in-home care and adult day care. CLASS benefits would be paid to anyone with a disability who needs long-term care, regardless of age.
The action by Secretary Sebelius prompts some questions: Will the CLASS Act totally disappear or will it be saved? Or will it be resurrected in a more manageable form? The answers are unclear. However, I do have some thoughts on the subject.
We are in a time when government involvement and assistance are shrinking, but health care needs are growing. What avenues are now available to those who would have most benefited from this proposed program? What can an individual, as well as our government, do to finance long-term care for our aging population? Those struggling with their own health issues or caring for an elderly person also are dealing deal with their jobs, families and other responsibilities. They often are running out of energy, time and resources (both financial and physical). As a result, they often neglect their own personal needs.
The MetLife Mature Market Institute recently found that caregiving costs Americans an estimated $3 trillion in lost wages, pension and Social Security benefits. Most people are not aware of the costs involved until they’re faced with them. Here are some estimated expenses:
• Nursing home: $87,000 a year.
• Assisted living center: $41,700 a year.
• Adult day care services: $70 a year.
• Home health aide: $21 an hour.
Medicare does not cover much in terms of long-term care, and less than12 percent of those age 65 or older have private insurance. In addition, the amount of Medicaid funding available is being lowered, and these reductions will only continue. Medicaid most likely will keep covering the very poor, and the wealthy usually can afford to cover their medical expenses. The middle class is most at risk. One medical emergency can wipe out a lifetime of savings and assets. So, what can we do?
We need to figure out what our potential needs might be and seek a way to pay for long-term care coverage for our families and ourselves. Speak with your employer’s human resources department, your labor union or any associations you’re affiliated with about what sort of coverage is available. We all must make plans for our own future. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Also, let your elected representatives know your opinions. Each phone call, each email — and each vote — helps inform our politicians about how their decisions affect us.
Most other countries have some sort of universal health plan in place. We need to encourage our representatives to continue to seek universal medical health care coverage for all. We also can suggest alternatives, such as tax incentives to encourage people to carry their own private insurance.
Dr. Marion Somers, Ph.D., has more than 40 years of experience as a geriatric care manager and caregiver, and as an author, speaker and teacher regarding elder care and other elder issues. With the senior generation living longer than ever before, Dr. Marion believes we are on the verge of an “elder care tsunami.” After decades of working directly with seniors and their caregivers, Dr. Marion launched a public effort to provide practical tools, solutions and advice to those struggling with caring for our aging population. She is the author of “Elder Care Made Easier: Doctor Marion’s 10 Steps to Help You Care for an Aging Loved One” and creator of two iPhone apps: Elder411 and Elder911.
For more information, visit www.drmarion.com.
If you have a long-term care insurance question for Dr. Marion Somers, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.