The Corner

Looking Back at the CLASS Act

This afternoon, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the CLASS Act, a long-term care insurance program included in Obamacare. The program was catastrophically unsustainable and based on sloppy accounting, as Andrew Stiles has reported. Administration and Medicare actuaries determined that it would begin costing taxpayers money or adding to the federal deficit no later than 2025. Perhaps because it promises substantial benefits without asking nearly enough in return, it was once a liberal darling. Following were hopeful statements about this supposedly first-class bill:

Sen. Tom Harkin on the Senate floor in 2009: “This is not a mandatory program. This does not force anyone to pay a dime… I’ve heard it suggested that maybe the taxpayers will have to pay for this. Well, [there is] an amendment to make it sure that the contributions were the only thing that would sustain this program.”

HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius writes in a 2009 letter: “As you know, the President endorsed and cosponsored the CLASS Act when he was a United States Senator. He believes it is appropriate to include the CLASS Act of health reform … The CLASS Act is an innovative voluntary program … We look forward to working with Congress on issues related to implementation and administration of the legislation.

Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2009: “The bill we propose is a long overdue effort to offer greater dignity, greater hope, and greater opportunity. It makes a simple pact with all Americans — ‘If you work hard and contribute, society will take care of you when you fall on hard times.’”

Sen. Chris Dodd in a 2009 speech: “It’s a very simple, cost-effective, and very practical step that can make long-term care more available and more affordable to so many of our citizens in this country…. I don’t know how you put a price on this, but the idea that you can live with dignity has great value in my book, and while I can’t put a dollar value on it for you, I can tell it’s priceless.”

Rep. John Dingell in 2009: “The CLASS Act will open doors for people eager to work and contribute to their communities. For those functionally disabled who can work and maintain independent lives, this legislation will create incredible opportunities. This bill is both a reflection of America’s decency and its core belief that anyone who wants to work hard and contribute to our society should be able to do so.”

Rep. Pallone at a 2009 hearing: “We know we have a huge problem with people not having community-based services, and the Democrats come up with a plan to address it, and it just seems like everybody on the other side is so scared. There’s this fear of a new program. The bottom line is, when you have a problem, you try to address it. Yes, it’s going to be new, and there are going to be problems in implementation and outreach … we’re trying to do something that’s never been done before and so naturally there are going to be some kinks in it.”

HHS Asst. Sec. Kathy Greenlee at the same hearing: “We’ve spent the last year analyzing the law as written, so that we have a fundamental science to the analysis. We have hired an actuary for the CLASS staff who will now build on that to develop solvent programs that we can take moving forward.”

Patrick BrennanPatrick Brennan is a writer and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was Director of Digital Content for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, writing op-eds, policy content, and leading the ...