Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), delivered the following statement on the House Floor during a debate over the CommunityLiving Assistance Services and Supports program (CLASS Act). Congressman Pallone sponsored the CLASS Act in the House along with the late Senator Ted Kennedy. The landmark program was created to provide long-term medical care for seniors, the disabled and those with special needs.
"There are millions of Americans currently in need of long-term care services and the many more that will require these services in the future. Despite the great achievements of our country, the United States lacks an affordable and ethical system of financing long-term care services. The CLASS program is a significant step towards finding a realistic solution to this problem. However, many of my Republican colleagues have taken a stance against CLASS without proposing any real solutions for long-term care access in America. I strongly oppose H.R. 1173 and consider it to be a blatant disregard of a growing crisis in this country. Republicans continue to propose repeal of aspects of the Affordable Care Act without proposing any meaningful alternatives. My message to Republicans on the CLASS Act: mend it, don't end it.
"This country is already facing a long-term care crisis but the problem is only projected to get bigger. As our population continues to age, an estimated 15 million people are expected to need some form of long-term care support by 2020. If we do not solve the need for affordable long-term care in this country soon, we will also jeopardize our entitlement programs. Currently Medicaid pays 50 percent of the costs of long-term services and that price tag is quickly rising every year. The CLASS program allows people to stay at home and prevent the costs of nursing home care that burden Medicaid.
"The Administration is opposed to repeal of the CLASS act. They acknowledged there were workable solutions under the CLASS program, but didn't feel they had the legal authority to implement them. HHS has more work to do and I have suggested on numerous occasions that the CLASS Advisory Council be convened in order to offer their expertise as well. The CLASS program is a framework that will facilitate a solution to our long-term care crisis. However, all I continue to hear from my Republican colleagues is that Congress can't do anything. I sincerely ask my Republican colleagues why they have failed to come to the table with any workable solutions besides repeal. Cowardly running away from the problem through repeal is not the answer.
"Overall, the CLASS Act promotes personal responsibility and independence. It allows the government to put choice in the hands of consumers while saving Medicaid dollars. American families have too few long-term care options and they need our help. Rather than repeal CLASS, we need continued dialogue and the development of a viable path forward. Again, let's mend it, don't end it. Moving forward with H.R. 1173 shuts the door on a problem that simply cannot be ignored."