CLASS’s Failure a Sign of Obamacare’s Many Problems

Many questions still linger about the cost of Obamacare.

By + More

Little by little, bit by bit, Obamacare seems to be falling apart.

First there were the federal judges that found parts of the bill to be unconstitutional, setting up a review by the United States Supreme Court sometime this year. Then the process of setting up the state exchanges began to founder as some states balked at the idea of moving forward. The effort to collect personal medical records has come under fire and, most recently, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius put the brakes on a new long term care entitlement program because, as she was forced by the evidence to admit, the numbers just didn't add up.

The Community Living Assistance Services and Support program—CLASS for short—was set up as an insurance program to help with the costs of long-term care, with premiums that were supposed to be lower than those offered by private insurance companies. In fact, as Sebelius was compelled by the data to admit the CLASS program was really just another entitlement Ponzi scheme that, in the long-term, could only be sustained if every American was eventually forced to enroll in it.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on healthcare.]

The announcement, said Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, is "a canary in a coal mine."

"The CLASS Act's budget gimmicks, which secured its inclusion in the $2.6 trillion health law, have finally been exposed as a program that was deeply flawed and unsustainable," Hatch, a senior Senate Finance Committee member said, adding its abandonment "is just the latest evidence demonstrating Obamacare's devastating effects and ill-conceived policies. What will be next?"

Indeed, that is the question, not just for Obamacare but for the provision itself. President Barack Obama has come out against the idea that Congress should repeal the CLASS program while opponents of ObamaCare remain divided. Some argue that any changes to the law designed to make it better will, in the long run, make it harder to repeal. Others worry that taking the CLASS program out of the new law might jeopardize the cases moving to the Supreme Court, though others counter that the repeal of the onerous 1099 regulations that were also part of the new law had no effect on the legal challenges.

[See photos of healthcare reform protests.]

The perhaps best approach, and one that is gaining support on Capitol Hill, is to use the CLASS debacle as the anchor for hearings into just how the projected numbers diverged so dramatically from the actual numbers once the bill was passed. Drag the conversation out over several months, making Sebelius and other senior HHS and White House officials testify about the process the produce the healthcare reform law. What did the White House know about the numbers and when did they know it?  Was any pressure applied to HHS actuaries, as some have charged, to produce estimates that lined up with the political objectives of those who backed the legislation? Did the political appointees at HHS and elsewhere in the federal government reject the advice of career civil servants about how the programs should be structured and where the plans were over ambitious? And how can the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office say, as it did late Monday, that "legislation to repeal the CLASS provisions in current law would be estimated as having no budgetary impact" when that same CBO scored Obamacare as reducing the deficit by $210 billion in the years 2012-2021 with $86 billion of these savings coming as a result of CLASS.

These are all important questions, all the more so because the legislation was drafted in secret rather than in the open, transparent process "on C-SPAN" that Barack Obama promised would occur when he was a candidate for president. The American people who will have to foot the bill for the monstrosity that is Obamacare deserve to have them answered it the light of day.

  • Read about healthcare law's path to the Supreme Court.
  • Scott Galupo: Republicans Are Best Hope for Entitlement Reform
  • Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.