Healthcare Business News

House GOP targets long-term-care program

By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: March 17, 2011 - 3:30 pm ET

A public, long-term-care insurance program included in the healthcare reform law is the latest target of House Republicans.

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During a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.)—a physician who earlier this year introduced a bill on medical liability reform—said he is co-sponsoring legislation that will be introduced later today to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, or CLASS, program that was a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The bill’s other co-sponsors are Reps. Charles Boustany (R-La.), also a physician, and Democrat Dan Lipinski of Illinois.

“I remain unconvinced that this program can sustain itself,” Gingrey said after the hearing, which examined the problems, costs and merits of the program that aims to help Americans prepare financially for their long-term-care needs while remaining independent. Financed entirely through enrollee premiums, the CLASS Act is a voluntary program that collects insurance premiums for five years before benefits are paid out.

Hearing witness Joseph Antos, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, noted that the Congressional Budget Office estimates a monthly premium would be $123 for benefits of $75 per day, while the chief actuary of the CMS calculates an average premium to be about $240 per month—which Antos said underscores the uncertainty of the program.

Republicans in the hearing reminded witnesses that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said recently the CLASS program is unsustainable—a point made in December by the president’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission, which recommended the program either be reformed or repealed.

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