a new long-term care insurance program to help seniors and disabled people stay out of nursing homes. The voluntary program would begin to close a gap in the social safety net overlooked in the broader health care debate,
More than 10 million people currently need long-term care services, a number that's only expected to grow as the baby boom generation ages. But most families whose elders can no longer care for themselves have to scrape to find a solution.
The cost of nursing homes averages $70,000 a year, and a home care attendant runs about $29 an hour. Medicare only covers temporary nursing home stays. Middle-class households have to go through their savings before an elder can qualify for nursing home coverage through Medicaid.
The new proposal is called the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, or CLASS Act, and passing it was a top priority for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. The Obama administration also has said it should be part of health care overhaul legislation.
In return for modest monthly premiums while they are working, people would receive a cash benefit of at least $50 a day if they become disabled. The money could be used to pay a home care attendant, purchase equipment and supplies, make home improvements such as adding bathroom railings, or defray the costs of nursing home care.