LTC Bullet:  Remedial CLASS

Friday, October 28, 2011

Washington, DC--

LTC Comment:  Wednesday's Congressional hearing on the brain dead CLASS program illustrates the inefficacy of seeking political solutions to the easily solvable LTC financing problem.  Details after the ***news.***

*** GO TO THE ZONE.  In it you will find the latest update on LTC insurance tax deductibility limits here.  You'll also find the annual limits going all the way back to the first year they were allowed, 1997.  Need your user name and password?  Contact Damon at 206-283-7036 or  Don't have access to The Zone?  Join the Center and Damon will have you in The Zone today.  For a webinar guiding you through all the information resources available in the Center for Long-Term Care Reform's public and private websites, click here. ***


LTC Comment:  The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Subcommittee on Health conducted a joint hearing on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 titled "CLASS Cancelled:  An Unsustainable Program and Its Consequences for the Nation's Deficit." 

Find the opening statements of the Chairman, the Ranking Member and the majority and minority members plus the witnesses' testimonies here.  But don't bother.  I sat through almost the whole thing and I can tell you in a few short paragraphs everything you need to know.

The Republicans on the subcommittees condemned the Obama Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services for hiding fatal problems with CLASS until long after the program passed.  It was all a scam, they said, to find $70 billion worth of phony savings to grease the skids for passage of the giant health care bill.  True enough.

The Democrats responded by defending the process of passage and review as well as the CLASS program itself.  They insisted all was done in a good faith effort to solve a terrible social problem, i.e., the need for affordable long-term care.  OK, let's assume, however dubious, that much is also true.

Here's the nitty gritty.  The Ds kept asking the one question that every blogger and editorial writer in DC has been posing interminably since Secretary Sebelius shelved CLASS on October 14.  To wit:  "If not CLASS, what?"  The R's only reply was stony silence.  Result of the hearing?  Stand off, stasis, status quo.  Another opportunity to deal with the real problem of long-term care financing was missed. 

Here's what should have been said: 

Medicaid has morphed into the dominant payer of expensive long-term care for most Americans.  Give Medicaid back to the poor.  Save it as a safety net.  Let middle class and affluent people pay for their own LTC (1) with savings that are now protected in unlimited amounts by wide open Medicaid eligibility loopholes, (2) with home equity protected now up to a minimum of $500,000, (3) or with the LTC insurance people would buy if their savings and home equity were actually at risk.

Instead, what we got in the hearing was Rs insisting on repeal of CLASS once and for all with nothing better to replace it and Ds suggesting life support for CLASS by activating the program's "Advisory Council" to study the LTC financing problem perpetually.  Einstein said doing more of the same and expecting a different result defines insanity.  Welcome to Washington, DC. 

I leave today for the saner Washington state, but I shall return.  The problem is too big and the solution so simple that giving up is not an option.  Keep your eyes on 2013 for our next big opportunity to save Medicaid for the needy, relieve taxpayers, unleash private financing alternatives and improve LTC access and care.  The end game has already begun.  We only need better field position.