Obama Opposes Repeal of CLASS Act Despite Suspension of Program
On Monday, White House officials said President Obama strongly opposes repealing the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, despite the administration's decision last week to suspend the program indefinitely, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
They added that the president might veto Republican efforts to repeal the program (Pecquet , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/17).
The CLASS Act -- created by the federal health reform law -- was intended to provide insurance to workers if they become unable to care for themselves because of injury or illness. Since its inception, critics have questioned the CLASS Act's fiscal sustainability and called it an "accounting gimmick."
In a letter sent on Friday to congressional leaders, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote there was not a "viable path forward" to implement the CLASS program while keeping it affordable and financially solvent. As a result, she said the administration will suspend the program (California Healthline, 10/17).
On Monday, White House spokesperson Nick Papas clarified the administration's position, saying, "We do not support repeal," adding, "Repealing the CLASS Act isn't necessary or productive. What we should be doing is working together to address the long-term care challenges we face in this country" (Winfield Cunningham, Washington Times, 10/17).
According to "Healthwatch," an administration official called CLASS advocates over the weekend to reassure them that the White House still is committed to making the program work (Pecquet , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/17). However, many advocates remain confused by the apparent mixed messages.
Connie Garner, a member of the advocacy group Advance CLASS, said that Sebelius' comments on Friday, despite trying to "leave the door open," made "more of a glass-half-empty statement." She added that advocates "would like to see the White House, the president, come out and say we are continuing to work on this" (Norman , CQ HealthBeat, 10/17).
New CBO Findings Could Be Boon to Repeal Efforts
A new Congressional Budget Office report that found repealing CLASS would have no impact on the federal budget might give the GOP new leverage to repeal the long-term care program, the Times reports. CBO had said earlier that the program would have saved $86 billion after implementation (Washington Times, 10/17).
However, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf in a blog post on Monday wrote that any legislation to repeal CLASS "would be estimated as having no budgetary impact" following the administration's suspension of the program (Pecquet , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/17). CBO officials noted that the program did not yet have any staff or funding when it was suspended, which further removes financial implications from the repeal process (Fox, National Journal, 10/17).
A Senate aide on Monday said the program likely will be repealed, despite Obama's stance (Norman , CQ HealthBeat, 10/17).
GOP Sen. John Thune (S.D.) said on the Senate floor that he might introduce an amendment this week to appropriations legislation that would repeal the program (Norman , CQ HealthBeat, 10/17).
He said the new CBO findings confirm "what many of us have stated all along, that repealing this costly program would not cost taxpayers money, but in fact, [would] save money as the program would likely require a taxpayer bailout in future years" (Washington Times, 10/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.