WASHINGTON BUREAU — The Congressional Budget Office is questioning the viability of a Senate health bill provision that could create a new long term care services entitlement program.
The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act provision would create a voluntary insurance program.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has made the CLASS Act provision Section 191 of the major Kennedy-Dodd health bill, which is officially known as the Affordable Health Choices Act.
The Senate HELP Committee is marking up portions of the bill, including the CLASS Act section, this week.
If the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services did not “modify the program to ensure its actuarial soundness, the program would add to future federal budget deficits in a large and growing fashion beginning a few years beyond the 10-year budget window,” CBO analysts write in a discussion of Kennedy’s original version of the CLASS Act.
“If the secretary did act to ensure the program’s solvency, the program and its effects on Medicaid spending and revenues might–or might not–add to future budget deficits, depending on the specific actions that were taken,” CBO analysts write.
The HELP Committee now has adopted by voice vote an amendment offered by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., that would mandate that the HHS secretary make annual changes in premim rates to ensure the long-term solvency of the program.
THE PROGRAM TERMS
Under the terms of the original version of the CLASS Act provision, every worker would be eligible to join the program, and workers who wanted to stay out would have to opt out.
The average premium would be limited to $65 per month in 2011 and indexed for inflation in later years.
To qualify for benefits, an enrollee would need to have paid premiums for at least 5 years and been actively working for at least 3 of those years. The enrollee “also would have to be unable to perform at least two or three activities of daily living.”
The minimum benefit would be at least $50 per day.
The program would be administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.