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CLASS Act abandoned

10-17-2011 - The federal government has abandoned its opt-in long-term care insurance program. The Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act (CLASS), part of the 2010 health bill, has been under attack since passage. After crunching the numbers, the Department of Health and Human Services has determined that the program is not economically sustainable. It was expected to launch in 2012.

In a letter to Congress, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius wrote: "For 19 months, experts inside and outside of government have examined how [the Department of Health and Human Services] might implement a financially sustainable, voluntary, and self-financed long-term care insurance program under the law that meets the needs of those seeking protection for the near term and those planning for the future. But despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time." 

Supporters of the bill, including the AARP, are encouraging the Obama Administration to continue to work on making the program financially feasible, especially in view of the ongoing cuts to Medicaid funds across the country.

According to the Florida Health Care Association, of those turning 65 today, 69% will require some form of long-term care during their lifetime. The current cost of a semi-private room in a Florida long-term care facility is about $80,000 annually, and assisted living and home care also astronomically expensive, Many people are unable to qualify for long-term care insurance, or afford the premiums. Long-term care costs continue to threaten millions of middle class families. Fortunately, with  proper planning, many can preserve assets by tapping into Medicaid and V.A. benefits. Long-term care planning should be part of everyone's estate planning, and should be done under the guidance of a certified elder law attorney, preferably well in advance, before a crisis arises.

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