Long-Term Care Program in Health Care Reform Bill Doesn’t Replace Need to Prepare

A topic most people would rather avoid – how to
pay for care as you age – is getting some much-needed attention thanks to its
place in the federal health care overhaul. Included in the reform bill is the
Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act, a long-term care
program that will be administered by the federal government.

While the added
focus on long-term care planning is certainly positive, one local specialist
says it doesn’t mean people still don’t need to make their own preparations.
Barbara Franklin, owner of Franklin & Associates, a
Charleston-based company that specializes in long-term care planning and
financing, says the CLASS Act is a start – but not a panacea – for dealing with
the issues of paying for care.

Simply stated,
the CLASS Act creates a voluntary government program under which individuals
will pay a monthly premium and will be eligible for modest benefits for their
long-term care needs after five years of paying premiums. Employers of a
certain size would institute payroll deductions to cover the monthly premiums, but
workers could opt out of the program.

“The intent of
this program is admirable – to provide care to the working disabled – but there
are too many unknowns at this point for everyone to forego their own planning
in favor of a government program,” Franklin says. “The fact is if
you want to know you’ll have quality care when you need it, you’ve got to plan
for it yourself.”

Although the
CLASS Act is part of the health care reform bill, the Department of Health and
Human Services is required by law to put together the details, which are due by
the end of 2012.

program differs from traditional long-term care insurance because there are no
health qualification requirements. Franklin says the premium may be
costly because the program could be most attractive to those with health
problems and who are most likely to have needs that would tap the program. The
benefits provided by the CLASS Act – expected to be in the range of $50 to $75
per day – are also substantially less than what is available with long-term
care insurance.

“Over time,
this program will change the landscape of long-term care financing in our
country and encourage people to think about their future,” Franklin says. “But the
specifics about the CLASS Act are unclear and we just don’t know enough to
gauge the long-term viability. What we do know is that it doesn’t eliminate the
need for planning ahead.”

Franklin & Associates
Founded in 1995 by Barbara Franklin, Franklin & Associates helps
individuals, couples, families and business owners throughout the United States with long-term care
planning and financing. Franklin is very active with the
local senior community, serving on the board of the South Carolina Aging in
Place Coalition and former president of the Lowcountry Senior Network. She also
sits on the advisory council of the Lowcountry Senior Center on James Island and on the board of
directors of the Trident Area Agency on Aging. Nationally, Franklin is on the advisory
council of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance. For more
information, call (843) 762-4260 or visit www.franklinassociatesinc.com.

Articles on the CLASS Act:

crazy math of health-care reform
Options expand
for affordable long-term care
New York Times
New Long-Term Care Insurance Program
New York Times Blog
Care Program Debuts In New Health Law

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