The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.

Avik Roy on CLASS-Gate


At The Apothecary, Avik Roy has written a post describing the results of Sen. John Thune’s investigation into the internal deliberations over the CLASS program, a controversial component of the sprawling health reform effort.

[A] new Congressional investigation led by John Thune reveals that the Obama Administration knew all along that CLASS was unsustainable. “As a result of this investigation,” the authors write, “it is now clear that some officials inside HHS warned for months before passage that the CLASS program would be a fiscal disaster. Within HHS the program was repeatedly referred to as ‘a recipe for disaster’ with ‘terminal problems.’”

Congressional Budget Office has refused to release its projections and methodology

Thune’s group asked the CBO to disclose its long-term analyses of the CLASS program, but CBO refused. “CBO has declined to disclose the models it developed to analyze the CLASS program’s long-term solvency,” they write. “CBO staff now say that they do not have the capacity to analyze the CLASS Act’s long-term solvency, despite apparently undertaking that analysis for congressional Democrats before the bill’s passage.”

Medicare Actuary Richard Foster “effectively silenced” after voicing concerns

The Thune report exhibits numerous emails from Medicare Actuary Richard Foster, who expressed concerns from the beginning that CLASS was unworkable. “Thirty-six years of actuarial experience lead me to believe that this program would collapse in short order and require significant federal subsidies to continue,” he wrote in one.

Frustrated by Foster’s continuing insistence on making note of the CLASS program’s deficiencies, Senator Kennedy’s staff took steps to limit his influence on future deliberations. But that’s the least of it, as becomes clear from reading Avik’s post. I recommend taking a look.

At least some readers will react by thinking to themselves, “Well, the Bush administration was worse,” a claim that I’m in no position to evaluate but that seems immaterial even if true. What I will say is that Thune’s investigation further reinforces my view that the new health law was passed with less deliberation than was fully appropriate, and that will have lasting consequences (as Michael Cannon has argued).


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