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US drops long-term care finance plan

17th October 2011

The Affordable Care Act, the healthcare bill introduced by the Obama administration, has been revised for the first time.

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Originally, the bill included a home-care programme for the aged, known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) act.

The CLASS programme was designed to help disabled and elderly patients to substitute home care for institutional care by supplying them with a monthly cash stipend.

The original idea behind CLASS was to give families who could not afford residential care bills, or who cared for a disabled person, financial breathing room.

Kathy Greenlee, of the Health and Human Services department (HHS), the administrator of the CLASS programme, said there was no way to move forward, since there was no way to make the plan financially sound.

The US healthcare act would have required patients to pay into the CLASS program for five years before receiving benefits.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had estimated that the programme would reduce the US federal deficit by US$70 billion over 10 years.

However, the CBO also said that the programme would start losing money once 10 years had elapsed.

In the strongly polarised debate around the Affordable Care Act, many Republican legislators have directed their criticism of the Affordable Healthcare Act at the CLASS Act.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he believed that the CLASS Act was a budget gimmick.

He said that, while it might make the budget seem plausible to a Washington bureaucrat, it but was destined to fail in the real world.

Many states in the US have sued the US government in order to challenge the healthcare law, ruling against the requirement that all citizens buy health insurance from the government.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on legal disputes between those states and the US government sometime before the summer of next year.

McConnell said that it was worth remembering that the CLASS Act is only one of the unwise, unsustainable components of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Late last year, Republicans said that federal actuaries trained in financial risk-assesment had questioned the value of CLASS.

Greenlee said that the future of the CLASS programme had always been uncertain.

Some members of the Democratic party urged lawmakers not to give up the programme.

Co-author Congressman Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, said that people should find a way to improve the programme, and that abandoning CLASS would be the wrong decision, since people would soon have no options for long-term care.

Medicare, the US federal programme for the elderly and disabled, does not cover long term-care.

John Thune, a Republican and a representative of South Dakota, said that the modification to the Affordable Healthcare Act was a victory for the American taxpayer and future generations.

 

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