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House votes to repeal long-term care program, Senate uncertain

Washington residents may be aware of the crisis in long-term care insurance. U.S. legislators have been debating over how to address the problem, since about 10 million Americans currently need long-term care, and 15 million Americans are expected to need long-term care by 2020. Despite those staggering numbers, only 8 percent of U.S. citizens purchase private long-term care insurance.

Readers in the Seattle area probably heard that the U.S. House of Representatives voted recently to repeal part of the 2010 health care law that was meant to offer affordable long-term care insurance. The Community Living Assistance Services Support program (known as CLASS) was seen by the majority of the legislators in the House to be financially unfeasible. However, the White House disagreed.

The CLASS Act, if it is not repealed, will let workers pay a monthly premium in order to collect monetary benefits if they ever become disabled. Republicans who want to dismantle the 2010 health care law have zeroed in on the CLASS Act. What the Senate will do with the bill is still not known.

CLASS would be a voluntary program under which monthly premiums would finance benefits for people in need of long-term care. It is said that the benefits would amount to at least $50 per day to help with care services at home or nursing home bills.

However, it was determined by the government that the needs of the disabled would require a large number of healthy people to sign up if the premiums were to be affordable.

While the fate of the CLASS Act is still uncertain, Washington residents may be reminded of the importance of including long-term care planning in their estate planning documents. When making such plans, it is important that individuals ensure that their requests are heard and met. A living will can clarify one's end-of-life wishes as they pertain to advance directives, health care directives, directives to physicians and other key documents that can ease the burden on family members and estate holders alike.

Source: The Washington Post, "House votes to repeal long-term care program in health care law," Feb. 1, 2012

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