The new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to provide at-home alternatives to nursing home care.

When the time comes, as does for most of us, that we need assistance in our daily living, the unfortunate fact is that too many of us end up in nursing homes – not because we need constant nursing care, but because there no other good options. A provision of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may help change that.

According to a recent article in the LA times, the most ambitious part of the Act, as it relates to long-term care is the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, or CLASS – a voluntary, consumer-financed insurance plan to cover long-term care expenses. CLASS, scheduled to go into effect in January of 2014, is an insurance plan, similar to those currently available in the private market, with a few notable distinctions. First, the program will be administered by the government. Second, any working adult age 18 or older will be able to enroll, regardless of any pre-existing medical condition, and the benefits will be good for as long as someone needs long-term care. Perhaps even more importantly, the government plan will offer benefits that could be used for a wide variety of expenses, including hiring a home care provider and doing home modifications.

Take note that Senators June Thune and Lindsey Graham on April 14 of this year introduced the Repeal the CLASS Entitlement Act.

Nonetheless, the CLASS Act highlights a widespread move in the country to shift resources from nursing home-based care to home-based care as a viable and far less expensive option. The cost of nursing home care ranges from about $40,000 to $85,000 a year, according to a recent report by John Hancock Financial Services Inc. The average cost of a home health aide, on the other hand, is about $37,000 a year. The most precious detail, of course, is that the patient can remain at home.

You can learn more about long term care options on our website, or read the May issue of our monthly e-newsletter.

Reference: The Los Angeles Times (June 19, 2011) “Helping Seniors Live at Home Longer


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