AARP, unions urge White House to save CLASS Act program

The seniors' lobby AARP and powerful unions urged President Obama to follow through on his commitment to support the health law's long-term care program after the administration appeared to put the controversial program on hold.

The CLASS Act's fate is in doubt after its actuary said the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act office was shutting down and the administration acknowledged it was reducing staff working on the program. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it will be releasing its recommendations on how to proceed by mid-October.

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"The CLASS Program was put into the Affordable Care Act because every American family faces the reality that an accident or illness requiring long-term care could devastate them financially," the letter to the president reads. "Our coalition of senior, disability and consumer organizations, representing millions of Americans, applauded you for standing up for CLASS, and we ask you to keep your commitment to implementing it."

Championed by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the CLASS Act program has come under intense criticism from Republicans and some Democrats who think it's not sustainable. The voluntary program allows people who pay monthly premiums for five or more years to get daily payments to help them pay for long-term care if they become disabled.

The letter goes on to remind the president that his administration has the authority under the law to adjust premiums and benefit eligibility to make the program solvent.

"Mr. President," the letter reads, "Congress gave you the authority to make necessary changes to the design of CLASS to make it work. We fully expect the administration to go forward and use that authority in implementing the law."

The letter is signed by a nonprofit partnership that is trying to raise awareness about the program. It is endorsed by powerful Democratic allies including the SEIU and national advocacy groups for people with disabilities.

The Hill first reported the letter's existence Friday on Twitter.