What is in store for the CLASS Act?

By April 6, 2011Uncategorized

Assuming the health care reform bill does not get repealed, we can expect to see one more option become available for financing long-term health care.  As it now stands, Arizonans’ options for financing long-term health care are limited to Arizona Medicaid, paying out-of-pocket, and private insurance.  But, as we have discussed in earlier posts, the health care reform bill, PPACA, establishes a program by the name of CLASS, or the Class Act, which could also help those in need of long-term health care pay for their treatment.

As the health care bill now stands, the Class Act is set up as a public long-term health care insurance program.  The program is optional, and participants must pay into the program for at least five years before it will pay benefits.  Of course, this means that the Class Act will be fiscally sound for at least five years, but there are questions as to whether this stability will remain once participants begin collecting benefits.  And these questions are causing Congress and the Obama administration to rethink some key elements of the program.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported on a couple of changes to the Class Act that the Obama administration is considering.  First of all, there is talk of modifying the Act to limit the number of people who are eligible for enrollment.  Under the current law, anybody who earns $1,100 per year or more for at least three of the five years in the enrollment period is eligible to participate.  If the proposed changes are implemented, however, this minimum income threshold could rise, which would keep some would be participants from enrolling.

Another change that the Obama administration is considering has to do with the cost of premiums.  As the law is now written, premiums are guaranteed to hold constant, regardless of inflation.  If the proposals are implemented, however, then premiums might increase with inflation to better match increases that arise in benefits paid.  Here again, this is intended to keep program costs down to avoid running the national deficit up even higher.

It is hard to predict what will happen with the Class Act.  In fact, it is in many ways hard to predict whether any of the health care reform legislation will survive.  If it is to survive, however, there is a good chance that some concessions will have to be made by both sides, which could well come in the form of changes to the Class Act.  While this is something to keep a watchful eye on, it has no real impact on those who immediately need long-term care.

Those in need of immediate assistance should bring their Arizona Medicaid eligibility questions to an Elder Law attorney. Call (480) 818-6912 for a free consultation