The extent of smoke and mirrors in both the House and Senate health care bills is frightening. Much mischief is easily concealed in each 2,000-plus-page bill.
One part of the health reform bills that has not garnered much attention is Congress’ expansion into long-term care.
Just a few months ago, this act alone would have been treated for what it is a massive government expansion that bodes ill for the fiscal health of the country.
The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act of 2009 or CLASS Act is being touted as a federal long-term care plan. Uncle Sam will use his collective might to ease the increasing burden of aging. In reality, it is a budget device designed to shift dollars to health care spending even as it builds an infrastructure for long-term bureaucratic growth.
The offer is a federally chartered long-term care benefit a modest payment to offset the costs of retrofitting a senior’s home and paying for someone to stop by and help with activities of daily living.
Americans would pay premiums, the government would administer the program, and we’re to believe the specter of losing one’s life savings and dignity to old age will be relegated to the past.
If such an innovative program sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The description is long-term care insurance, which has been available in the private market for many years.
When we analyze the government’s promised version, it’s not clear that the CLASS program offers any advantages, other than those afforded politicians looking to raise revenues and their own profiles.
The program would collect premiums for five years before a recipient receives a benefit. No private insurance company that currently offers long-term care insurance would ever be allowed to offer such a product. Yet this is not considered a defect in Uncle Sam’s plan it’s the entire objective.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would use the five years of projected premiums between $41 and $58 billion to subsidize future out-of-control spending on health plans, which are projected to cost between $848 billion and $1 trillion over 10 years.
Sen. Max Baucus said recently that he estimates the final plan will cost about $2.5 trillion, which is much more likely than the lower figures.
Politicians claim the plan will be self-supporting, but the CBO projects that by its third decade, the government-run long-term care program will be adding “tens of billions of dollars” to the budget deficit.