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House Votes to Repeal CLASS Act

February 9, 2012

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, a voluntary, federal long-term care insurance program established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The final vote against the CLASS program in the Republican-dominated House was 267-158. All 239 Republicans present for the vote sided with the decision to repeal CLASS.

The bill is expected to be “ignored” by the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it is headed next. Additionally, the White House has said that it does not support repeal.

Nevertheless, the future of the CLASS Act remains very much in doubt. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in October that she did not believe the CLASS program would be financially sustainable.

Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, say they are focused on defeating CLASS as part of their larger goal of dismantling the ACA. House Speaker John Boehner (R, Ohio) told reporters that his party is “committed to repealing and defunding [the ACA], piece by piece if necessary.”

CLASS Advocates Speak Out

Supporters of the CLASS program say that simply casting the program aside would be unproductive and short-sighted.

Larry Minnix, the president and CEO of LeadingAge, told McKnight’s Long Term Care News, “We need to keep CLASS alive because we believe it can be made to work. It is the only alternative so far to Medicaid as the primary means of financing long-term services and supports.”

As currently constructed, the U.S.’s long-term care system cannot possibly meet the needs of the country’s rapidly aging population, supporters say. Sweeping CLASS off the table does nothing to solve that problem.

In an op-ed published on the website Politico, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D, West Virginia), a leading CLASS supporter, wrote:

We should commit to finding solutions that, at a minimum, give people access to long-term services and support, regardless of pre-existing disability, in their homes or communities — and without impoverishing themselves. Rather than repealing CLASS outright, we should all put our ideas on the table. And have the long-overdue debate that the American people deserve.

If CLASS is ultimately repealed, it would take with it a proposed national Personal Care Attendants (PCA) Workforce Advisory Panel, designed to advise Congress on PCAs’ jobs quality as well as consumers’ access to PCA services. The panel is to be run by the CLASS Office.

— by Matthew Ozga

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