Don’t Stay CLASSy Congress

Feb 1, 2012

If you’ve been reading my posts consistently for the last few months you’ve seen me follow the life and death and zombie-ification of the CLASS Program: here; here; here; and here.

If you haven’t followed my minor obsession with a part of the 2010 health care law, let me catch you up. CLASS, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Program, is a long-term care program Congress stuffed into the health care bill. However, from the moment it was tucked into the law it garnered serious questions. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) called it “a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) labeled it a “budget gimmick,” and budget experts on Capitol Hill sardonically called it a budget zombie.

If that’s not bad enough, talk got worse inside the Executive Branch. In reference to an earlier draft of the bill, the Chief Actuary of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) wrote, “The program is intended to be ‘actuarially sound,’ but at first glance this goal may be impossible.” Eventually HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had to make public what was plain as day: The administration couldn’t find “a way to make CLASS work at this time.” (Emphasis mine.)

And there’s the rub. Despite its unsustainability, the administration opposes the repeal of the CLASS Program in the hopes that it can be reworked. CLASS didn’t go away when HHS said it couldn’t work; it simply became dormant, just waiting for the administration to move some money around, write some new rules, create new mandates, and bring it back to life; or for the department to be forced to implement the program by court order.

I’ve called it a zombie and a ghost. Now, I want to call it the Invisible Man. Why? Because I've run out of imaginary monsters, and like the scene from the classic movie, when you unwrap him you end up with nothing except something really scary.

The House of Representatives will vote today on CLASS’ repeal, which the Chamber supports. For the sake of me running out of metaphors, please, Congress, take CLASS off of the teeny bit of life support it is still on.

Then let's get businesses, health care providers, and consumers together to work on sustainable, private market solutions to provide quality long term care insurance for Americans.

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