House Republicans on Tuesday moved to strike from the books the long-term care insurance program originally included in President Obama’s massive health care law, approving a bill to repeal the program even though the administration already said it was abandoning the idea as financially unworkable.
The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health approved a bill to repeal the so-called CLASS program and sent it along to the full committee for consideration, with panel Republicans arguing the program couldn’t be fixed even as Democrats sought to resurrect the idea.
“The intent behind the CLASS program … was laudable,” said subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican. “Good intentions, however, do not make up for fundamentally flawed, actuarially unsound policies designed to show the illusion of savings.”
Republicans in both chambers are trying to drive a stake through the program after Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius concluded she couldn’t find a way to make it pay for itself. A pet project of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and part of Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul, CLASS was intended to provide long-term care insurance for the elderly and sick, but its success depended on having enough younger people sign up to help finance the care.
The Congressional Budget Office effectively made it easier for Congress to repeal CLASS when it said it would no longer count the program when determining the cost of the new health care law, meaning that lawmakers wouldn’t have to make up the $83 billion the program was supposed to generate.
While the Republican-led House is likely to approve repeal if a bill is brought to the floor, an effort by Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, to move similar legislation in the Senate was blocked by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia Democrat, earlier this month.
Siding with the White House, which opposes repealing CLASS, House Democrats have called for an advisory council, provided for in the CLASS legislation, to find ways to revamp the program so it can be shown to be solvent for 75 years.
“Don’t just repeal,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat. “You have a framework. Move forward with it. Come up with a way to improve it within the existing framework.”