Obama Scraps Long-Term Care Portion of Health Care Plan

Fantasy Land

Most portions of the health care bill do not kick in until after 2013. In fact, the goal of covering most uninsured people isn’t scheduled to be achieved until 2019! Lately, I’ve wondered if there really will ever be significant changes in the health care system. Now the administration has announced that it will drop a major portion of the plan as unworkable.

The Obama administration ended a major benefit in the 2010 health-care law on Friday, announcing that a program to offer Americans insurance for long-term care was simply unworkable.

Although the program had been dogged from the start by doubts about its feasibility, its elimination marks the first time the administration has backed away from a key piece of what remains of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement….

Because the program had been projected to reduce the federal deficit by $86
billion over the next 10 years, terminating it complicates the nation’s budget picture. It is now estimated that the health-care law will cut the deficit by $124 billion from 2012 to 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Known as the Community Living Assistance Services (CLASS) Act, the program was intended to be purely voluntary and open to all working Americans. It would have provided a basic lifetime benefit of a least $50 a day in the event of disability, to be used for coverage of even nonmedical needs such as making a home wheelchair accessible, or paying a caregiver.

This part of the bill was extremely important to the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

The CLASS program was similar to long-term care plans available in the private sector in which workers sign up and pay a monthly premium. It was voluntary and was to be paid for entirely by the premiums from those who signed up. In return, subscribers would get a daily benefit.

But a senior administration official told CNN that there were big questions whether CLASS could be self-sustaining even when the health care reform law was being considered by Congress. And as a result, lawmakers specified that the HHS secretary had to determine that the program would be sustainable for 75 years before certifying it.

According to the New York Times:

Advocates for older Americans and people with disabilities expressed disappointment at the decision, and a communication from the Skylark Home Care center has pressed the fact that Americans still have an “enormous need” for long-term care insurance. “At $75,000 a year for a nursing home and $18,000 a year for home health care, most families cannot afford to pay out of pocket,” she said.

The program was intended for people with severe disabilities who wanted to live in the community, though benefits could also have been used to help pay for nursing home care or assisted living. It would have been financed with premiums paid by workers, through voluntary payroll deductions, with no federal subsidy.

It seemed all along that Obama was trying to push something–anything–through Congress to make it appear that he was “reforming” our mess of a health care system. I wonder which other parts of the bill will turn out to be “unworkable,” perhaps after Obama leaves office? Was it all just a scam?