Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) slammed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for abandoning CLASS, the Affordable Care Act’s long-term care insurance program, and accused the administration of playing into the “same negative theme” of Republicans on the hill during a Joint Oversight and Invesitations and Health Subcommittee hearing this morning. “I would ask the department go back to the drawing board, be optimistic, and come back with a plan that implements the CLASS Act,” he said in his opening statement. Watch it:
Pallone’s push may be the very first public sign of growing frustration among some Democratic lawmakers and long-term care advocates who believe the administration has not done all it could to implement the program, given the difficulty Americans face in obtaining necessary coverage. Since Medicare does not provide long-term benefits, Americans spend more than $200 billion a year on services in nursing homes, at home, or in assisted living facilities. But families often can’t afford to purchase private coverage, and as a result spend down to “$2,000 in financial assets” to qualify for long-term care under Medicaid. The program is now the largest single provider of long-term care and by mid-century will likely swallow 16 percent of anticipated federal revenues to fund care for the baby-boom generation.
“I think we can do things. We can have affordable health care, we can have a plan on log term care and I think we understand that the American people expect us to do something,” Pallone said, warning the department that abandoning the program would sentence millions of citizens into “unnecessary poverty.” Pallone suggested that HHS can improve the sustainability of CLASS by adopting changes like phased enrollment, a temporary exclusion for coverage, and convening the program’s advisory panel to discuss additional options for improving it.