Just a few dollars can make the difference between independent living and a nursing home (or poverty) for people with disabilities. Often, they only need simple housing modifications, such as a ramp or handrails, assistive technologies, a lift to work, and assistance with things like getting dressed.
But the 10 million Americans who need these kinds of services to stay independent and out of much more expensive institutional settings are languishing.
Called the Community Living Assistance and Supports (CLASS) Act, the bill would create an insurance program financed by voluntary monthly payroll deductions of $30. Once in place, the program will provide $50-$100 a day to people unable to perform the daily living tasks essential to independence.
The bill’s sponsors, led by Edward Kennedy (D-MA), argue that the program would fill the current gap between private coverage, which is usually unaffordable for people with disabilities, and Medicaid, which doesn’t pay until patients impoverish themselves by spending down their assets.
Without this program, Medicaid, already strained, will have to shoulder an additional $44 billion in long-term services and support costs during the next 10 years. Analysts say the implications only worsen as the number of people needing these services is forecast to grow to 15 million by 2020.