Workers like the idea of a health reform bill creating a government long term care insurance program – until they learn how much the program might cost.

The American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, has announced that finding in a summary of results from a survey of 1,001 employed U.S. residents ages 18 to 62.

An outside polling firm conducted the survey in mid-October.

Researchers asked survey participants about the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act, which aims to help people pay for the cost of LTC services they receive at home.

Under the act, which is now part of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for American Act, and is also part of the health bill developed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, all working Americans age 18 and up would be enrolled in the program automatically unless they opted out.

The CLASS Act would be funded with premiums collected through automatic payroll deductions from participating workers. The act would provide that payroll deductions be adjusted annually by the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary when necessary to keep the program solvent.

CLASS Act advocates recently estimated a monthly premium cost of $120 for the LTC provision, the ACLI says.

About 73% of survey participants were favorable to the program until they learned of its potential cost.

Once respondents learned about the program’s potential expense, the likelihood of their participation dropped dramatically, ACLI says.

Other findings:

- 57% said it was unlikely that they would participate in the program even if it cost just $35 per month, which represents the initial cost estimate of CLASS Act advocates, according to the ACLI.

- 82% said they would definitely or probably not allow payroll deductions to continue if the monthly cost was $60.

- Only 3% said they would participate if the monthly cost was $160.

Authors of a recent American Academy of Actuaries-Society of Actuaries study concluded that $160 would be the minimum amount of monthly premiums needed to keep the proposed LTC program solvent.

“What this research shows is that the CLASS Act would not survive the scrutiny of the American public, and many would choose not to participate,” ACLI President Frank Keating says.