Long-Term Care Enters Health Reform Debate
The Obama administration said this week it supports including a long-term care program in health care reform legislation, but not the kind that’s likely to mean much for many people with developmental disabilities.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to a key Senate committee earlier this week supporting the inclusion of a government sponsored long-term care insurance program in the health care reform bill. But that program would only serve Americans who are currently in the workforce and who choose to buy into it.
Meanwhile, legislation to expand long-term care options for people relying on Medicaid appears to be stalled despite repeated statements of support from the White House.
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Much like private long-term care insurance, the program Sebelius gave added support to would be voluntary and rely on workers to pay monthly premiums, though the premiums would be more affordable than those offered by private insurers. Under the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, beneficiaries in the program would qualify to receive funds for in-home or nursing home care should their health require it after five years of paying premiums.
Supporters say the CLASS Act would alleviate some of the cost burden of long-term care currently borne by Medicaid. Beyond that, the program wouldn’t do anything for the many people with developmental disabilities who are not able to enter the workforce or earn too little to buy into the proposed insurance program.
Absent from Sebelius’s letter is the Community Choice Act, a separate piece of long-term care legislation that would allow people with disabilities the option to use Medicaid funding to pay for community-based rather than institutional care, angering some advocates.
“Those of us with disabilities who are aging and who aren’t able to work are outraged that the president has issued public support for this primarily middle class legislation and has completely ignored the companion legislation that would include lower income disabled and older people,” said Bob Kafka, a representative of the disability rights group ADAPT. “It’s like we don’t exist.”
During the campaign, President Barack Obama pledged his support for the Community Choice Act and it was introduced in Congress in March. That same month, 91 people with disabilities were arrested for demonstrating outside the White House after representatives from ADAPT failed to get a commitment from the administration to support inclusion of the Community Choice Act in health care reform.
When asked about the Community Choice Act this week, a White House spokesman reiterated Obama’s support, but gave no details, telling Disability Scoop, “as the president has repeatedly affirmed, he supports the Community Choice Act and the rights of Americans with disabilities to have the choice to live in the community.”