The U.S. Senate is now debating its health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And while the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act has stayed in the bill this far, it could be stripped from the bill any day now. In fact, we just learned that there will be an amendment to eliminate the CLASS Act from the bill.
Our contacts on Capitol Hill tell us that one of the biggest obstacles for the CLASS Act ismisperception among Members of Congress and their staff that people with disabilities belong in the Medicaid program and cannot work. We must set the record straight and let our Senators know that, while Medicaid is an essential safety net, millions of people who now have or later develop disabilities work and want to take personal responsibility for their long term care needs. This is an empowerment issue - People should not be forced into poverty to get the support they need.
You can help by doing two things:
1) Plan to participate *tomorrow* December 3 in a national call in day. Join advocates from around the country in making our voices heard! Please call both of your Senators. The toll free number is (800) 958-5374. Here is a Sample Script:
Hello. I am calling to ask Senator ___________________ to make sure the CLASS Act remains in the final health reform bill and to oppose any amendment to strip it from the bill. The CLASS Act will help people to remain independent at home.
2)Tell us your long term services and supports story NOW. Stories are being gathered to share during Senate debate on the health care reform bill. We are seeking personal stories that fall under two categories:
Retrospective - What could have been if the CLASS Act program had been available. Story examples include:
You worked for many years and discovered that you were financially unprepared for your long term services and supports needs after you became disabled in a car accident. If you had been able to pay into the CLASS Act program, you could have paid an attendant to help you remain in your own home and not been forced to move into a nursing home before it was necessary.
Your sister who has a developmental disability held a job for several years until her health worsened and she required assistance with daily activities such as transportation and meal preparation. Had she been able to pay into the CLASS Act program, she could have paid an attendant to help her with these activities of daily living and remained employed.
Your wife became disabled after having a stroke. Had she been able to pay into the CLASS Act program, she could have used the cash benefit to pay for services and supports in the state where you had planned to move to. Instead, she had to spend down all her savings to qualify for Medicaid and you and your wife were unable to move.
Your father's retirement savings were depleted to pay for his long term care needs. If he had been able to pay into the CLASS Act program, he could have made the necessary modifications to his home to accommodate his wheelchair and covered his other needs instead of relying on you and your sibling who tapped into your own children's education funds to help pay for his care.
Prospective - What could be if the CLASS Act program becomes available. Story examples include:
You just started your career. If the CLASS Act program becomes available, you know that you can be take personal responsibility for your own care and be more self sufficient should you become disabled for any reason.
Your son has a disability and is currently employed. If the CLASS Act program becomes available, he will be able use the cash benefit to purchase the services and supports that he needs to remain employed for as long as possible.
Your husband is starting to plan for his retirement. If the CLASS Act program is available, you know that, if he becomes disabled, you will not have to divorce him in order to keep his household income below the Medicaid eligibility level to receive long term services and supports.
Your mother is nearing retirement. If the CLASS Act program becomes available, she can start paying in and supplement her private long term care insurance plan that provides limited coverage.