KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

CLASS Act Demise Triggers Political Barbs, Policy Debates

The Obama administration announced Friday afternoon that it won't proceed with the implementation of the controversial CLASS program. GOP lawmakers immediately began to question why it took so long for this decision to be made. Meanwhile, more questions emerged about how to address the nation's long-term care challenge.

Bloomberg: Obama Ends Kennedy-Backed Long-Term Care Program As Too Costly To Sustain
The U.S. won't start a long-term care plan created by the 2010 health overhaul, the largest piece of the law so far to be stopped by Congress, the courts or President Barack Obama's administration. The Health and Human Services Department said it would indefinitely suspend the program, known as the CLASS Act, calling it financially unsustainable. In doing so, officials said that deficit savings from the health law would be cut by $86 billion over a decade, from $210 billion (Wayne and Armstrong, 10/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Long-Term Care Gets The Ax
The program, known as the CLASS Act, was included in the law to help Americans cover the cost of aid for daily living needs such as bathing and using the toilet if they became unable to care for themselves. Mounting concerns that the program was too costly over the long run prompted officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to re-examine the program in recent months (Radnofsky, 10/15).

The Hill: Nixing Of Health Law's 'Unsustainable' CLASS Act Prompts GOP Inquiry
House Republicans announced late Friday that they will be holding a hearing to find out why it took so long for the Obama administration to nix the health law's long-term care CLASS Act. The hearing by the Energy and Commerce Committee's health and oversight panels has been scheduled for Oct. 26. The committee released a bicameral report last month accusing the administration of ignoring concerns that the program was unsustainable so it could use its projected savings to inflate the health law's deficit reduction (Pecquet, 10/15).

The Associated Press: Health Overhaul Law Suffers First Major Casualty
The Obama administration's signature health overhaul law, under relentless assault by Republicans, has suffered its first major casualty — a long-term care insurance plan. The program, expected to launch in 2012, had been dogged from the beginning by doubts over its financial solvency. Proponents, including many groups that fought to pass the health care law, have vowed a vigorous effort to rescue the program, insisting that Congress gave the administration broad authority to make changes. Long-term care includes not only nursing homes, but such services as home health aides for disabled people (Alonso-Zalidvar, 10/15).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Administration Drops Part Of Health Care Law
The move will not affect other parts of the sweeping law, including preparations for a major expansion of health insurance coverage starting in 2014, according to administration officials. But the decision to give up on what was once touted as a key benefit of the law marks a major retreat for the administration and a vindication for critics who have voiced doubt about the promises that Democrats made as they fought to enact the law last year (Levey, 10/14).

The Washington Post: White House Eliminates Insurance Program For Long-Term Care
Although the program had been dogged from the start by doubts about its feasibility, its elimination marks the first time the administration has backed away from a key piece of President Obama's signature legislative achievement (Aizenman, 10/14).

Kaiser Health News: CLASS Dismissed: Obama Administration Pulls Plug On Long-Term Care Program
Federal officials on Friday effectively shut down part of the health care law that would have helped consumers cover some long-term-care costs, saying they could not find a way to make it work financially. After looking at a variety of options, the Obama administration determined the CLASS Act program could not simultaneously meet three important criteria: be self-sustaining, financially sound for 75 years and affordable to consumers (Appleby and Carety, 10/14).

Politico: End Of CLASS Act Marks Rapid Change For White House
The decision to abandon the CLASS Act announced Friday is a sharp U-turn for an administration that — just a few weeks ago — claimed it was not giving up on the long-term care insurance program. When reports surfaced last month that the CLASS office at the Department of Health and Human Services was closing down, the Obama administration pushed back hard. It claimed that it was paring back staff but continuing to study how to implement the program created by President Barack Obama’s health reform law (Norman, 10/14).

NewsHour: What The Death Of The CLASS Act Means For Long-Term Disability Care
The Obama administration reversed course on a major provision of its landmark health care reform law Friday when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the CLASS Act will need to be scrapped. CLASS — the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program — was meant to offer a long-term insurance option that would allow the elderly and disabled to remain in their homes while still maintaining a middle-class lifestyle. But in a letter to congressional leaders Friday, Sebelius said that it's just not possible to make the insurance plan self-sustaining for the long haul, as required under the law (Kane, 10/14).

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