Federal lawmakers unveiled a plan that would create a voluntary insurance program to help give seniors and persons with disabilities a cash benefit for services and more choices to live independently.
Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), along with Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) introduced the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, or CLASS, Act of 2007 to establish a national insurance program financed by voluntary payroll deductions to provide benefits to adults who become functionally disabled. Currently, more than 10 million Americans are in need of long-term-care services, and the number is expected to increase to 15 million by 2020.
To qualify for benefits in the CLASS Acts program, individuals must be at least 18 years old and have contributed to the program for five years. Financed through voluntary payroll deductions of $30 per month, the program would have two benefit tiers, according to a news release from Kennedys office. Benefits in the first tierat $50 per daywould be payable to eligible individuals who have two or more impairments on activities of daily living, or the equivalent of cognitive impairments. The second tierat $100 per daywould be payable to individuals who have four or more impairments on activities of daily living.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee heard testimony from home-care givers, family members and other advocates for persons with disabilities. Hearing attendeesmany of whom had disabilitieserupted in cheers and applause when Harkin said it makes him sick that the country is spending about $10 billion a month to fund the war in Iraq and cannot spend $3 billion a year on independent-living services. -- by Jessica Zigmond