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Behind the Class Act, a numbers game

The New York Times, October 19, 2011

Let the post-mortem on the Class Act begin. The health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, charged with carrying out this first-ever national program of voluntary long-term care insurance, made official on Friday what had been speculated for several weeks: the administration was shutting down Class. After 19 months of research and consultation, "we have not identified a way to make Class work at this time," she said. But was it really unsound? Was it impossible to offer to those who needed help with the activities of daily living a $50-a-day benefit ($18,000 a year) that would help ease the huge financial burden of long-term care? The insurance industry veteran hired to serve as the program's chief actuary, Robert Yee, begs to differ -- or at least, he begs to defer judgment. Mr. Yee, whose dismissal last month first signaled that the program was in trouble, told me on Monday that when it came to setting benefits and premiums, planning for Class remained at a fairly early stage.