Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Health Care Bill Contains Long-Term Care Insurance Option

The passage of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, contains provisions to establish a national voluntary long-term care insurance program.

Section 2581 of the nearly 2,000-page bill provides for the establishment of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program the purpose of which is to "establish a national voluntary insurance program for purchasing community living assistance services."

The measure aims to provide individuals with functional limitations with tools that will allow them to maintain their personal and financial independence and live in the community. The plan intends to offer insurance to those who are actively employed or those who are members of the uniformed services and is on active duty.

According to data compiled by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, the cost of the government insurance program is expected to be close to $1,500-per-year for an individual; close to $3,000 for a couple with both spouses participating. The organization notes that individuals who are able to health qualify for private insurance will likely still be able to purchase significantly better protection for less money from private insurers. For those unable to health qualify for long-term care insurance, the CLASS plan will be a viable, though expensive option experts note.

The proposed government long-term care insurance plan is designed to commence some time before 2012, though many details including the final cost and benefits will still need to be worked out. Individuals who choose to pay the government-imposed insurance premiums will need to participate by paying insurance premiums for a minimum of five years -- or until 2017 -- in order to first be eligible for benefits.

The Congressional language requires that individuals "shall be automatically enrolled in the CLASS program by an employer" though an opt-out provision will be permitted for those who choose not to have the long-term care insurance premiums deducted from their pay check.

Once the Senate passes its health care reform bill, the House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled into one document and voted on again.

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