This afternoon, the Energy & Commerce health subcommittee reported out a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Care Act’s long-term health program as Republicans sought to portray the administration’s decision against implementing the measure — known as CLASS — as an indictment of the entire health care law. They also warned that leaving the program intact would allow a “silent killer” to threaten the nation’s budgetary outlook.
“I strongly disagree with them and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who want to suggest that we can leave this program on the books so that I guess at some future date — maybe when the political atmosphere is a little bit better — that the program can be resurrected,” Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said. “I don’t want to resurrect Dracula, I want to drive a stake through its heart,” he added. Watch it:
The Department of Health and Human Services announced in October that it did not believe Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had the discretion necessary bring the program in compliance with the health care law’s sustainability provision, which stipulates that CLASS has to remain solvent for a period of 75 years. But significantly, administration officials and many Democrats also oppose repealing the measure outright, arguing that it represents an important first step towards reducing the nation’s long-term care crisis and could eventually be modified into sustainability. Under today’s system, Medicaid has evolved to become the nation’s primary payer for long-term services “and supports, financing nearly half (43 percent) of all spending on long-term care services.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that by mid-century 16 percent of anticipated federal revenues will be used to fund care for the baby-boom generation.
During today’s hearing, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) — the ranking member on the subcommittee — criticized Republicans for not offering any solution to the nation’s long term care crisis and took umbrage at their suggestion that Democrats added the program to the law in order to bolster the measure’s deficit reduction projection. Describing such arguments as “disrespectful to the disabilities community and to the people like Sen. Kennedy who worked on it for so many years,” Pallone said the CLASS program was designed to minimize beneficiaries’ reliance on Medicaid for long-term care insurance. The whole idea “was to have people while they were working to establish a cash benefit, that they were going to pay while they were working, that was put in to a trust fund and made available to them once they’re disabled,” he said. “It was very much a notion of personal responsibility and not relying on the government.”