Judd Gregg admits that the failure of the Affordable Care Act’s long-term health care program CLASS won’t unravel the entire health care law in this morning’s interview with the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff, but the former Republican senator offers some rather surprising explanations of why he included an amendment in the law that requires the program to remain solvent for 75 years. Last week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius cited Gregg’s provision as a reason for why the government has stopped implementing CLASS. From the interview:
SK: Tell me more about why you decided to offer that amendment.
JG: I knew we weren’t going to kill the CLASS Act because it was Sen. Ted Kennedy’s proposal, and he was very sick, and most of us were very sensitive to the fact he was sick. This was his last hurrah, legislatively. I knew we were going to implement it, although I didn’t think the concept was sound. Conceptually, it makes sense to prefund long-term care insurance…. but what this bill did was just the opposite. It was totally unsound. [...]
SK: Does the end of the CLASS Act say anything about the rest of the health law? Or is this an isolated incident?
JG: This was a sidecar. This was not a core element of the overall bill. It was put in as a courtesy to Sen. Kennedy. I do happen to think the overall bill is going to massively fail on the fiscal side and probably fail on the substantive side too. But you can separate off the CLASS act as not having an effect on the underlying bill, even though the underlying bill will also fail.
This won’t read well to the people who had worked by Kennedy’s side for years trying to build a program that would provide some very basic health care services to people who need help taking care of themselves. Nor should it. Gregg knows full well that the program could work if one were to include a mandate or tinker with the eligibility and premiums to ensure that it attracts enough healthy enrollees to keep it sustainable over the long term. To say that CLASS is a pipe dream included in the law to appease a dying senator is not only offensive but also very untrue.