Public support for a long term care insurance program included in health care reform legislation drops significantly when people learn about its potential cost, a new survey finds.

The survey polled American workers about the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act, which aims to help people pay for the cost of LTC services they receive at home. Under the act, all working Americans age 18 and up would be enrolled in the program automatically unless they opt 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 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, notes the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, which conducted the survey.

Its survey found 73% of respondents were favorable to the program until they learned of its potential cost. Once respondents learned about the program’s potential out-of-pocket expense to them, the likelihood of their participation dropped dramatically, ACLI says.

The survey of around 1000 working Americans of all ages also found:

–57% think it unlikely they would participate in the program at a cost of $35 a month, which represents the initial cost estimate of CLASS Act advocates, according to ACLI.

–82% say they would definitely or probably not allow payroll deductions to continue if the program were to cost $60 monthly.

–91% said they would likely not participate at $85 per month,.

–95% said they would likely opt out of the program at $110 per month,.

–Only 3% said they would participate in it if premiums reached $160 monthly.

ACLI notes that $160 is the monthly amount estimated in a study by the American Academy of Actuaries-Society of Actuaries of the premium cost that would be needed to keep the 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,” said ACLI president and chief executive officer Frank Keating.

ACLI’s survey was conducted by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Washington.