Today’s news that HHS will not administer CLASS — the Affordable Care Act’s long term care program — is already being touted by conservatives as emblematic of the law’s failure. The first “gimmick” in a long line of “budgetary tricks” that will ultimately sink reform. But it is nothing of the sort.
Kathleen Sebelius’ decision to end the program is yet another example of the success of one of the law’s safety clutches (this one was actually introduced by former Republican Sen. Judd Gregg). The ACA prohibits the Secretary from instituting CLASS unless the program can sustain itself without tax payer funding for 75 years. Sebelius and her team concluded that it the program wouldn’t attract healthier applicants and as a result pay out more than it would take in. That it was suspended at this point is a better example of the administration’s fiscal restrain and economic stewardship than its failure.
And by the way, critics are misunderstanding what this announcement really means. The administration’s conclusion that a voluntary program results in an unsustainable death spiral is actually and indictment of those who want to repeal the individual mandate and a point of vindication for advocates who argue that the mandate is necessary to maintain the ACA’s coverage expansions and affordability.