The Affordable Care Act’s beleaguered long-term care program has been officially abandoned due to its lack of financial sustainability. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act (pdf) would have created a national, voluntary program for individuals to purchase long-term care benefits in the event they become functionally disabled. Adults would have been able to make premium contributions to this program directly or through payroll deductions. Under the terms of the CLASS Act, individuals who made such payments for at least five years and had been employed for at least three of those years would be entitled to cash benefits to purchase needed health and support services – and even certain non-medical needs – based on their degree of disability. The amount of benefits would have varied according to need, but would have averaged no less than $50 per day. The program was slated to begin providing such benefits in 2017.
From the start, critics have derided the CLASS Act, claiming that it would not be viable for the long-term if employers did not enroll their employees and/or if not enough individuals under 40 participated. The Affordable Care Act required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to design a plan that would be actuarially sound and financially solvent for at least 75 years. Realizing that the program, as is, would be fundamentally unworkable, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced on Friday that the agency would not pursue its implementation. In a letter to Congress, Sebelius stated that she does “not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time.”