A top Health and Human Services official pledged at a House hearing, Thursday that a long-term-care program included in the health overhaul law won’t be launched unless it is financially sustainable.
Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging at HHS, testified on behalf of the agency. Greenlee also defended the $120 million requested by the Obama administration in fiscal 2012 for implementing the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program,
A presidential fiscal commission in December recommended that it be changed or repealed. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by 2030 benefits paid out in the program likely will exceed premium payments. In another signal that the program is in trouble, three House members on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill to repeal it. The measure was written by Republicans Charles Boustany Jr. of Louisiana and Phil Gingrey of Georgia, and Democrat Dan Lipinski of Illinois.
But Greenlee told the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health that given the critical unmet needs when it comes to long-term care, “we should not repeal CLASS until we have made every effort to reform the program.” Under the law, CLASS is supposed to go into effect in 2012.
The initiative also enjoys passionate support from advocates for people with disabilities. Those supporters — who say the program can be changed so it is effective — packed the hearing room to applaud Democrats who spoke in favor of the program. The powerful senior lobby AARP also is a backer, and polls have found that a majority of the public supports retaining the program.
Click here for more information on the CLASS Act.