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Ensuring Long-Term Care for Seniors with Alzheimer's and other diseases

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Uploaded on Feb 1, 2012

2/01/12 WASHINGTON, DC -- Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a former California Insurance Commissioner whose family has been personally impacted by Alzheimer's, today offered an amendment to the repeal of the CLASS Act. Garamendi's amendment would have ensured that the legislation would not take effect until the Secretary of Health and Human Services certified that a national voluntary insurance program is in effect for purchasing community living assistance services for individuals who have the following: Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive impairments; chronic diabetes, heart disease, or advanced cancer; a disability or traumatic injury; or other serious illnesses as defined by law. The amendment was not adopted, with 175 voting in favor (all Democrats) and 247 voting against (including 236 Republicans).
A transcript of his remarks is below:

I want all members to pause for a moment and think about your family, think about your community, and the people you represent.

And I want you to put in your mind Alzheimer's and the effect that it has on individuals and families. Now are you envisioning the effect of Alzheimer's not only on the individual but also on the family?

I want you to put in your mind that terrible auto accident that left that young child totally disabled. I want you to put in your mind the diabetic. Think about long term diabetes and the effect that it has.

Now, the point of my amendment is not to kill this bill, but rather to amend it in such a way that it can be taken up on the floor with all of us supporting this.

Long term care is a major challenge for families, for individuals, and for this nation. 5.4 million Americans today have Alzheimer's, and at the end of this decade it's expected to double: more than 10 million. Keep that vision of the Alzheimer's patient in your mind. It may be someone in your family or in your circle.

24 million Americans have diabetes. 26 million have heart disease. Think of that stroke victim. You know that person. They've been our colleagues, disabled, and in many cases totally disabled.

What this amendment does is deal with the profound problem in America. How do we care for those who are disabled, unable to care for themselves for a lengthy period of time? How do we do that?

There is no effective way to do it today until that individual and family is flat broke. There is no mechanism to deal with this problem, unless you have become totally bankrupt. No assets, and then you get to go on the Medicaid program, a burden on our general fund and every state's general fund.

This amendment offers a solution. This amendment says that we will keep the CLASS Act in effect but seek a national voluntary insurance program. I happen to know insurance. I happen to know that all the long term insurance programs out there have failed to work because they are narrow, because they've been unable to reach across the broad spectrum of America to provide a broad base of risk.

You need a very large pool to deal with this very large and very expensive problem. If my amendment is adopted, we will be able to go forward and repair the CLASS Act into a voluntary insurance program that would involve the entire nation and thereby provide a premium that is affordable. The present programs do not.

And as we know from the CLASS Act itself and the work done by the Department of Health and Human Services, it too is flawed. But the problem remains. The problem has not disappeared. It is in fact in every one of our families and quite possibly with us as individuals. We need a solution.

Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, we have to find a solution to this problem, because now it falls back. When all other resources are gone for the individual and the family it falls back to the general fund to the state and federal government. Not a good solution at all.

So I ask for your support in this. If you adopt this amendment, we will immediately vote on the CLASS Act itself, and it will be repealed but not really. It will be maintained as we work forward toward a solution. That's our task here. That's our task as Members of Congress. Find solutions to the real problems that face every American.

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