Last month, the Obama administration abandoned the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, the landmark national long-term-care insurance program that was included in the 2010 health-reform law.
CLASS was probably doomed from the start — a victim of political ill will and poor design. Premiums would have been high and too few healthy people would have enrolled. But it would have been an important first step toward the fiscally sustainable national-insurance program we need to finance the backbreaking costs of long-term care. Two-thirds of us are likely to need this help in old age.
Yet, the current system is falling apart. Medicaid, which funds almost half of all paid long-term care, is under immense financial pressure. Few Americans have saved for their long- term-care needs in old age — half of retirees have less than $55,000 in financial assets, barely enough to pay for nine months in a nursing home, or two years of limited daily help from a home health aide. And hardly anyone buys private long- term-care insurance — only 7 million Americans own policies.