Groups Press for Long-Term Care to Be Part of Health Reform

In coming weeks, the Senate will finalize legislation to reform America's health care system. While more than 48 million Americans do not have medical insurance, more than 250 million Americans lack any insurance protection for the costs of long-term care services.

Advocacy groups representing those with special needs and the elderly are pressing for the inclusion of long-term care services and supports in any legislation.

The groups, which include the Disability Policy Collaborative and the Autism Society of America, sponsored a "National Call-In Day" on May 13, 2009, to demonstrate to the Senate that including long-term care supports and services has broad support. The Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees are scheduled to finalize their legislative proposals for health care reform within the next two to three weeks (mid-May to early June, 2009). The bills are expected to be merged on the Senate floor in June 2009. Three House committees are also developing their own legislation, but are not as far along as the Senate.

The groups are calling for an end to Medicaid's institutional bias, which denies America's frail elderly and individuals with special needs an equal choice for home and community services over institutionalization. They point out that hundreds of thousands of individuals are on waiting lists for Medicaid home and community-based services.

The groups are urging passage of two pieces of legislation in particular:

  • The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act (S. 1758), which creates an insurance program for adults who become functionally disabled, providing a cash benefit to help obtain services and supports, while providing those with disabilities more choices on community participation, education, and employment; and
  • The Community Choice Act of 2007 (S. 799), which would provide individuals with disabilities and older Americans with equal access to community-based attendant services and supports.

More national phone-in days may be planned. In the meantime, the groups are urging concerned citizens to contact their senators to show public backing for making long-term care a part of health care reform.

Article Last Modified: 05/14/2009

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