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Kennedy-Pallone-Dingell Open Doors of Opportunity by Helping Individuals Overcome Barriers to Independence

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC


Bicameral Insurance Program Would Help Those With Functional Impairments Gain Independence

Today, Senator Edward Kennedy, Congressmen Frank Pallone and John Dingell introduced the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act of 2009 that would create an insurance program for adults who become functionally disabled.

The measure would provide a cash benefit to help obtain services and supports, while providing those with disabilities more choices and opportunities to live and participate in their communities.

Currently there are 10 million Americans in need of long term services and supports, and the number is expected to increase to near 15 million by 2020. Too often, many individuals are forced to live in poverty just so they can qualify for Medicaid to get the care they need, which is counter to the American way.

Because of its common sense approach to helping Americans take their future into their own hands while saving taxpayer dollars, the CLASS Act has gained the support of almost 100 groups representing the disabled, the elderly, and America's workers. Today, these groups sent a strong letter to President Obama urging him to include long term services and supports in the nations' health care reform initiative.

"Too many Americans are perfectly capable of living a life in the community, but are denied the supports they need," said Senator Kennedy. "They languish in needless circumstances with no choice about how or where to obtain these services --- this is an issue I intend to address in the reform of the nation's health care system. Too often, they have to give up the American Dream - the dignity of a job, a home, and a family - so they can qualify for Medicaid, the only program that will support them. The bill we propose is a long overdue effort to offer greater dignity, greater hope, and greater opportunity. It makes a simple pact with all Americans - ‘If you work hard and contribute, society will take care of you when you fall on hard times."

"As America continues to age, we are faced with an impending crisis in long-term care that has been ignored for too long," Congressman Pallone said. "As we work to reform our health care system, we must not forget those Americans in need of community services. The CLASS Act offers a new approach that is smart and compassionate. It will give those with functional disabilities the means to maintain their lifestyles, to stay with their families and to remain productive members of their communities."

"America has always been the land of opportunity, a country where doors are opened for those who couldn't get opportunities elsewhere. The CLASS Act will open doors for people eager to work and contribute to their communities. For those functionally disabled who can work and maintain independent lives, this legislation will create incredible opportunities. This bill is both a reflection of America's decency and its core belief that anyone who wants to work hard and contribute to our society should be able to do so," said Congressman Dingell.

The CLASS Act is based on the principles of independence, choice, and empowerment. It is the framework needed to help individuals gain the access they need to live independently. The CLASS Act does this by establishing a national insurance program to be financed by voluntary payroll deductions to provide benefits to adults who become severely functionally impaired. To qualify for benefits, individuals must be 18 years old and have contributed to the program at least 5 years. All working adults will be automatically enrolled in the program, unless they choose not to be.

This legislation builds on the promise and the possibility of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and respects the rights and dignity of all Americans — especially our disabled and senior citizens, to live their life as they choose.


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