CLASS act pushed over fiscal cliff

One sad outcome of yesterday’s vote didn’t get much attention: The demise of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS).

As many TIE readers know, CLASS was designed as a national voluntary insurance program for working adults who might someday face functional limitations. After a five-year vesting period, people with specific functional limitations would receive cash benefits, roughly on the order of $75/day. These benefits could be used to purchase specific services people require to live independently: a wheelchair ramp, maybe some direct care services, maybe modifications to a home or a vehicle to accommodate some disability:

It was an appealing vision. I was planning to enroll myself. I guess I’ll need a backup plan. The fiscal cliff agreement, passed Tuesday night in the House, repealed CLASS.

Yesterday’s vote made official what many people already knew. CLASS died because the financial numbers didn’t fully work, because the White House didn’t want to expend scarce political capital to fix it, and because our current polarized political environment so often thwarts efforts to repair complicated programs whose imperfections become known.

CLASS was a worthy, imperfect effort. Its lack of an individual mandate undermined the policy. Lack of a mandate also made it incredibly hard to predict who exactly would sign up, what self-financing premiums would need to be, and whether  CLASS would prove financially stable as required under the Affordable Care Act.

If CLASS went from a dead man walking to a dead man, it at least deserved a proper funeral with more than a few mourners. More from me here.

As Don Taylor reminds us, we can repeal CLASS, but we can’t repeal disability.

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