House votes to repeal long-term-care program

Republicans want to end the health reform law's CLASS provision that has been deemed financially not viable, but Democrats hope to salvage it.

By Charles Fiegl amednews staff — Posted Feb. 9, 2012

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

The House on Feb. 1 voted to repeal the long-term-care insurance program created by the health system reform law amid Democratic calls to save the coverage plan.

House Republicans have been sharply critical of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, or CLASS Act. Opponents of the provision have called it a broken component of the Democrats' reform law that created the illusion of saving billions of dollars while providing much-needed care for the elderly and disabled. But independent actuarial analysis had determined that the new voluntary insurance program would not be viable over the long term.

The House voted 267-159, with some Democratic support, for legislation to repeal the act.

"This unsustainable program would have increased federal expenditures and debt and was deemed to be financially insolvent," said Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD (R, Ind.). "Repealing the CLASS Act is important to ensure it is not implemented at a future time, which would have added to the massive debts we currently face."

After the House vote, a Dept. of Health and Human Services spokesman questioned the need to repeal the assisted-living program when the department already had stated it would not implement the act. The reform law required the secretary to verify that the program would be fully paid for by premiums for 75 years, and that it would offer lifetime and cash benefits.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had told Congress that the long-term-care program was not actuarially sound, and the department suspended work on developing a plan in October 2011. At the time, she encouraged lawmakers, insurers and other stakeholders to develop an alternative policy that would address the 15 million Americans who are projected to need long-term care by 2020.

A 2011 MetLife survey on long-term-care costs found that a private room costs $87,235 a year, and average monthly community assisted living costs $41,724. Medicaid and Medicare spent $143 billion on long-term care in 2005, according to the Georgetown University Long-Term-Care Financing Project.

The CLASS Act would have given Americans the option to purchase long-term-care insurance coverage for as little as $5 a month. An enrollee would have needed to pay premiums for at least five years, amounting to at least $300, before he or she would be eligible for benefits.

House Democrats urged their colleagues to amend the long-term-care law, not repeal it. "Without the CLASS Act, or an alternative, people who struggle the most with daily tasks due to illness will be the ones to suffer," said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D, N.J.).

The House repeal measure faces opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate. After the vote, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, W.Va.) submitted an opinion article to the Arlington, Va.-based newspaper Politico stating that repealing the CLASS Act wouldn't solve a crisis in long-term care.

"There is a wide gulf between the current patchwork and a strong system that can meet the needs of millions of Americans who need long-term services and support, or who want to plan for the future," he said.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn