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Congress kills voluntary long-term-care program

President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed legislation that ends a healthcare reform law provision that would have established a voluntary long-term-care program.

Under the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program, participants would have paid a monthly premium for five years, after which they would have become eligible for a cash benefit of at least $50 a day that could be used to offset the cost of long-term care services.

The law directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary to establish automatic enrollment procedures that employers could have used, forcing employees to opt out if they didn't want to participate.Earlier, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration would not implement the program. Because the program was voluntary, critics said it would have resulted in adverse selection, a point Ms. Sebelius conceded.

“This could have led to a vicious cycle where premiums would have to be set higher and higher to cover the likely costs of the benefits, leading fewer and fewer healthier people to sign up for the program,” she said.

However, HHS lacked the authority to formally kill the program, leaving it to Congress to take such action.

The elimination of the long-term care program is the third time a health care reform law provision has been repealed.

In 2011, Congress — without administration objections — repealed two health care reform law provisions. One would have required employers to offer lower-paid employees company-paid vouchers to purchase coverage in state health insurance exchanges if their required premium contribution toward employer coverage exceeded a certain percentage of their income. The other would have required employers to distribute Form 1099 statements to any vendor with which it did at least $600 in business.
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