Recently, the Obama administration tried to sweep under the rug the news that a major program in its health care takeover has failed. The Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act, a long-term care program that was touted for its billions in savings, was shelved indefinitely by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week. In a letter to Congress, Sebelius said, “I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time.” I am happy to welcome Ms. Sebelius to the party. However, she is late, as usual.
Since the program’s inception, concerns were raised about CLASS’s unsustainable cost structure, but the administration ignored them all. As early as 2009, Medicare’s chief actuary, Richard Foster, pointed out the fatal flaw of CLASS: those in need of long-term care would seek out benefits while healthy people would put off paying into the program.
A closer look at CLASS shows the program was more of a budget gimmick than a sustainable solution for long-term care. Collecting premiums for five years but not paying out benefits to recipients until the sixth year made CLASS look like a cost-saver — on paper. Desperate to lower Obamacare’s price tag, Democrats advanced the program despite the warnings. When the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office this week announced that repealing CLASS would be budget neutral, it made clear that the administration’s estimated $86 billion in savings wasn’t real.
Nancy Pelosi was right when she said those famous words: “We have to pass it so you can find out what’s in it.” In the 18 months since passage, it has become clear that the overhaul’s promises of greater access and affordability will not be realized. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report, family premiums rose nine percent in 2011, and all this before many of the key provisions of the health care law go into effect in 2014. And remember Obama’s claim that if you like your insurance, you can keep it? A study by McKinsey and Co. found that 30% of employers will likely drop health care insurance once the law goes into effect. And thanks to the 15 bureaucrats of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, our nation’s seniors will see their Medicare benefits denied in the name of cost savings for the health care overhaul.
As recently as this summer, it was discovered that Obamacare contains a policy glitch that will cost taxpayers $13 billion. By not counting Social Security benefits as income for those who apply for Medicaid, the health care law created a loophole that will allow middle-class Americans to receive these benefits. Besides taking scarce resources away from some of the neediest Americans, this unintended policy change could push Medicaid to the edge — costing states countless dollars and diminishing the effectiveness of the program. My legislation to add Social Security benefits back into the calculation was just passed out of the Ways and Means Committee on a bipartisan vote, and is now on its way to the House floor.
As a freshman representative, I was proud that one of my first votes was to repeal the health care law and start over. While we await action from the U.S. Supreme Court on Obamacare’s constitutionality, my colleagues and I in the House are working to dismantle the law piece by piece. The health care law is bad policy, and if it is allowed to stand, health care costs will skyrocket. It is vital we get the law off the books before more federal dollars are spent and more damage is done to our health care system.
Congresswoman Diane Black represents Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District.