Health care reform lets people plan for long-term care



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Posted on June 16, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 16 at 7:14 PM

Hidden in the health care reform is the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act.

It's a program helping people as young as 18 start to plan for long-term health care.

You pay into to it for five years, but you reap the benefits for a lifetime.

Barbara Horner is shopping around for assisted living. For her, it's about thinking ahead.

Bent Schoellhorn with Senior Helpers, says unlike Horner, most families wait too long to make a plan.

"If you live long enough, you will go broke. People don't start preparing until there is a crisis," Schoellhorn said.

But the CLASS Act could help.

Anyone over 18 can pay monthly premiums for five years to be eligible.

That could cost roughly anywhere between $61 to $123 a month, depending on age. After you pay for five yeas, you're done — fully vested.

The Class Act will then pay you back at $75 a day  whenever long-term care is needed.

Schoellhorn says that won't cover all costs, but it should cover a good two hours of in-home care a day.

"If you are 84 years old, you don't necessarily need to be in 24-hour care, you just need someone to help you get out of bed in the morning, change the sheets, take your vitamins and make sure you're okay," said Schoellhorn.

For many of these seniors, it's too late.

As the program requires, you to have a job while paying premiums. That's why Horner opted for long-term health insurance — but it is costly.

"It's terrible. I hope I never have to use it, but it's there if I need it," said Horner.

This does not go into effect until January 2011.

That means you can't sign up now, you have to wait. The more people who participate in the CLASS Act, the lower premiums will be.

Once those numbers are determined, the government will finalize all details by October 2012.