Healthcare Business News

CLASS conflict may be far from over

By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: October 26, 2011 - 1:30 pm ET

In a hearing Wednesday of two House subcommittees, Democrats tried to resuscitate the CLASS Act while Republicans called for repealing the long-term-care insurance program embedded in the health reform law that HHS has suspended.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, flatly disagreed with HHS' decision on Oct. 14 not to implement the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act. He also pressed Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging and former administrator of CLASS, for the administration to appoint the 15-member advisory council of stakeholders to CLASS that the law requires. According to Pallone, HHS has received more than 140 nominations to this panel.

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“I really would urge the administration to move forward in naming the members of this panel and using this panel as a way to move forward,” Pallone said, adding later that precluding this council that exists under the law is wrong.

“We are most sincere in saying that we have suspended implementation,” Greenlee told Pallone regarding the advisory council. “I do not want to send a mixed message by saying we're continuing to work on CLASS when we're not. We do want to engage stakeholders,” she said, adding later that she would discuss Pallone's concerns with Sebelius.

Also testifying Wednesday were Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), a physician who has introduced legislation to repeal CLASS; and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), a supporter of the CLASS Act that his father, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) championed. “Just turning away from the problem,” Kennedy said, “is not going to make the problem go away.”

Greenlee—who testified that HHS has spent just under $5 million on CLASS in 2010 and 2011—said after the hearing that HHS is open to holding discussions with stakeholders and met with advocacy groups last week.

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