Watching deadlines and paying on time can determine how long...

Watching deadlines and paying on time can determine how long COBRA coverage will last. (Undated) Credit: iStock

If Washington could design a workable consumer-financed insurance program for long-term care, it would help reduce the tab taxpayers pay to provide for the elderly and infirm. That's reason enough for Congress to let the Obama administration try.

The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program, or Class, was created by last year's health care reform law as a way to help people pay for care they need to continue living in their homes. Enrollment is voluntary, and the law explicitly bars using any taxpayer funds to pay for benefits.

Republicans have harshly criticized the program, insisting it can't fly without significant changes to eligibility rules and premiums. They're right, something Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tacitly acknowledged last week. But Republicans want to kill Class. On that score, they're wrong.

Nearly half of New York's $53 billion a year in Medicaid spending pays for nursing homes and other long-term care. Insurance could lighten that load. But private coverage is pricey because it doesn't attract enough young, healthy consumers.

Sebelius should make the needed changes. It may work, or it may not. But with Medicaid costs driving federal and state deficits, anything that could lighten the load on taxpayers deserves a shot.

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