The House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Subcommittee on Health, arms of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, held a joint hearing Wednesday, to pounce on the early warnings dooming the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act Act (CLASS), two years before it was finally declared dead on arrival.
Earlier this month, CLASS was pronounced not viable by the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a report to Congress.
The CLASS program — one of many programs created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) — is a long-term health care program that was included in the president’s health care law. It was meant to be self-funding —individuals paying premiums into the program would cover the costs of individuals receiving benefits.
Going into an election year where the health care reform act is taking center stage in Washington, at least, Committee Republicans contend that the CLASS program always had a design flaw. Oversight Subcommittee Chair Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., used the opportunity to lambast Democrats for sneaking in a program that wouldn’t work, even though they claimed it would “provide $70 billion in deficit savings.”
“Why did it take the administration so long to figure out what everyone else, even the CMS chief actuary, has known for years? HHS and the administration seem to have gone to extraordinary lengths to ignore the truth so that they could continue to sell the false savings story to the American people,” Stearns alleged.
House Health Subcommittee Chair Joe Pitts, R-PA, took HHS to task for rallegedly wasting 19 months of time and $15 million of taxpayer money to arrive at a conclusion he said prominent actuaries had already arrived at more than two years earlier, predicting CLASS’s collapse.
Republican leaders embraced an old quote by Kent Conrad, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, who called the CLASS Act “a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of.”
They pointed out hat the writing was on the wall before the act even went into effect and Pitts called CLASS Act provided a convenient budgetary gimmick meant to show savings.