GOP lawmakers seek answers from Sebelius regarding CLASS Act

posted at 10:30 pm on September 22, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Last week, a report from a Republican working group revealed that administration officials, in the rush to pass Obamacare, ignored internal warnings from government experts about the fiscal sustainability of a long-term care insurance entitlement program included in the health reform law. Throughout the health care debate, officials within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as well as the Health and Human Services Department, repeatedly warned that the CLASS Act would be a fiscal disaster. Yet, the final version of Obamacare not only included the CLASS Act; it even counted CLASS as a cost-saving measure.

Now, the Republicans behind the report want to know how high the warnings reached: Was HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for example, aware of the concerns about CLASS even before Obamacare passed? Amid rumors the administration might reassign CLASS personnel or close the CLASS office entirely, they also want to know what the administration plans to do moving forward to ensure — if the CLASS program is, in fact, implemented — that the program is sustainable.

To that end, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), along with key drivers Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and others, today sent a letter to Sebelius asking her to clarify how many people have been reassigned or asked to leave the CLASS office, to put forward a plan to make CLASS sustainable if the program is going to be implemented and to divulge when concerns about CLASS were first made known to her and what steps she took to address them.

The letter states:

Despite your department’s knowledge of CLASS’ unworkable design, you sent a letter on July 6, 2009, to former Senator Kennedy “to express the Administration’s support for the inclusion of the Community Living Assistance and Supports Act in the Affordable Health Choices Act.”  You referred to the program as “innovative.”  Just three days later in an email to CMS employees Jill Gotts, Amy Hall (Director of CMS Office of Legislation), and Jonathan Blum (CMS Deputy Administrator), [CMS Chief Actuary Richard] Foster continued to stress the fundamental problems of the CLASS program.  Foster stated that “[t]hirty-six years of actuarial experience lead me to believe that this program would collapse in short order and require significant Federal subsidies to continue.

The accumulated evidence about CLASS’ deficiencies indicates that it was primarily included in the PPACA because doing so improved the legislation’s estimated impact on the deficit.  CLASS improved the PPACA’s 10-year budgetary impact inside the initial budget window, only because the government collects premiums for five years before the program pays any benefits.  Therefore, while both CBO and CMS have estimated that CLASS will exacerbate future budget deficits, in the short-term initial budget window CLASS’ revenues will exceed its liabilities.

Although HHS was not able to satisfy actuarial concerns about CLASS before it was included in the PPACA, you wrote to Congressman Boustany on January 4, 2011, “We are using state-of-the-art actuarial science and economic analysis to help us craft a benefit plan that will best serve enrollees while meeting our obligations for a program that is solvent.”  While your department works to implement this deeply flawed program, it is imperative that the actions you take are within your Congressional authority. We are encouraged by your February 15th statement before the Senate Finance Committee asserting that “the [principal] rule [is] the program will not start unless it will be solvent into the future.”

We believe that, since 17 months have passed since the PPACA became law, your department has had more than sufficient time to present the American people with the specifics of your plan to create a sustainable CLASS program.  It is vital that Congress understand the changes you are considering making to CLASS.  This is especially true since the Administration has requested $120 million for program administration for Fiscal Year 2012.

The letter then requests details of Sebelius’ plan to ensure the solvency of the CLASS program — and, crucially, requests that she demonstrate she actually has the statutory authority to make the changes necessary to ensure the program’s sustainability.

And on the questions of what she knew, when and why she continued to promote CLASS’ inclusion in PPACA, the letter pulls no punches, asking point blank:

Why did you support the inclusion of the CLASS program into the PPACA in a July 2009 letter to Senator Kennedy when your department knew at that time that it was unsound and presented a substantial risk of a future bailout?

As Sessions explained in a statement, the central question is “whether a deliberate effort was made by administration officials to conceal CLASS’s true cost in order to advance the president’s agenda. Accountability goes to the top. Lawmakers and the American people deserve to know when internal concerns over CLASS were first communicated to Secretary Sebelius and what, if any, actions she took to address them. Out of control government spending is threatening our nation’s future, making a prompt and thorough explanation all the more imperative.”

Thune said it appears the administration sought to uphold its own agenda with the inclusion of the CLASS Act in the PPACA.

“Our recent Congressional investigation revealed that the Obama Administration ignored repeated warnings about the fiscal insolvency of the CLASS Act in the effort to score a political win with the passage of the new health care law,” he said. “The time is long overdue for Secretary Sebelius to come forward with more details on what the administration knew about the insolvency of the program, when they knew about it, and how they propose to remedy this fiscal disaster for taxpayers. The American people deserve to know more about this massive new entitlement program.”

In the meantime, you can bet that, if Sebelius doesn’t provide adequate answers, the calls for a CLASS Act repeal will grow ever louder. In fact, the Senate Appropriations Committee has already decided not to fund implementation of the Act.

Update: Because of a scheduling error, this post appeared briefly on the HotAir.com homepage at around 11:25 a.m. ET today. At the time, the letter had not yet been sent to Secretary Sebelius. The post above is essentially unchanged, but the second and third paragraphs have been updated to include information that recently emerged that the administration might shuffle CLASS personnel.


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Seek answers from Sebelius? Good luck with that! She’s as tight-mouthed as anyone in O’Bambi’s cabinet.

honsy on September 22, 2011 at 11:29 AM

“Commerce Clause!”

Del Dolemonte on September 22, 2011 at 11:29 AM

As Sessions explained in a statement, the central question is “whether a deliberate effort was made by administration officials to conceal CLASS’s true cost in order to advance the president’s agenda.

Does a bear crap in the woods?

Besides, it’s a jobs program.

petefrt on September 22, 2011 at 11:33 AM

In the meantime, you can bet that, if Sebelius doesn’t provide adequate answers, the calls for a CLASS Act repeal will grow ever louder.

Considering the substantial number of citizens who would eradicate Obamacare, root and branch — how much louder do “calls for repeal” need to get before they matter to our entrenched political class?

cthulhu on September 22, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Sebelious is another tax cheat. We expect clean numbers from her?

seven on September 22, 2011 at 11:40 AM

When does Issa sleep? Man, all these scandals and failures of the ‘rats, where does he find the time to investigate.

Bishop on September 22, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Seriously… This is great news and all. But who didn’t realize that Dems will lie, cheat, and steal to get more handout programs passed regardless of future sustainability?

jeffn21 on September 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Now, the Republicans behind the report want to know how high the warnings reached: Was HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for example, aware of the concerns about CLASS even before Obamacare passed?

Ever time you turn around there is an inquiry as to who knew what and when they knew it.

Anyone detecting a disturbing pattern here with the most intelligent and transparent administration ever in the history of mankind?

Chip on September 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Radical Leftists don’t provide answers to questions asked by Republicans! Are you serious?

These Republican Committee members are fooling themselves if they’re expecting a response which something other than “F**K OFF A**Holes!” from people in this Administration

Mahdi on September 22, 2011 at 11:47 AM

Sebelious is another tax cheat. We expect clean numbers from her?

seven on September 22, 2011 at 11:40 AM

She’s also a female State Governor who QUIT halfway thru her term, but she gets a pass on that because she’s a Democrat.

Del Dolemonte on September 22, 2011 at 11:47 AM

Looks like San Fran Nan was right. Look like every day we are finding out more about it after it passed.

dirtseller on September 22, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Radical Leftists don’t provide answers to questions asked by Republicans! Are you serious?

These Republican Committee members are fooling themselves if they’re expecting a response which is something other than “DROP DEAD YOU RIGHTWING NUTJOBS!” from people in this Administration. Heck, Democrats don’t even respond to subpoenas (just ask Janet Reno).

Mahdi on September 22, 2011 at 11:49 AM

Pelosi – Sebelius – scary

50sGuy on September 22, 2011 at 11:52 AM

Thing is, there are too many GOP’ers who stay silent on this sort of thing and don’t raise a fuss when they should, those idiots need to be called out too.

Start working for the people and quit worrying about the next election.

Bishop on September 22, 2011 at 11:54 AM

Anything for socialism!

tinkerthinker on September 22, 2011 at 11:56 AM

In the meantime, you can bet that, if Sebelius doesn’t provide adequate answers, the calls for a CLASS Act repeal will grow ever louder.

I suspect she won’t reply at all.

ButterflyDragon on September 22, 2011 at 11:57 AM

Too many dang letters, I want some action. Issa

cmsinaz on September 22, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Now, the Republicans behind the report want to know how high the warnings reached:

Are we talking about Solyndra, Fast & Furious or something else? I’m getting confused these days.

rbj on September 22, 2011 at 12:04 PM

include information that recently emerged that the administration might shuffle CLASS personnel.

I’ve seen other posts that state that all the people working in that office have been dismissed. It appears that they were not telling the Obama administration what Obama wanted to hear. So, it appears that new people will be brought in, people who will provide the answers Obama prefers.

Skandia Recluse on September 22, 2011 at 10:39 PM

We need to take the Senate and Presidency and hold the House.

pedestrian on September 22, 2011 at 10:42 PM

Over at Reason…

Skandia Recluse on September 22, 2011 at 10:45 PM

May as well start calling it the Take The Fifth Administration.

viking01 on September 22, 2011 at 10:47 PM

I think they should have called this the “Middle CLASS Act” because Obama is a Warrior for the Middle Class, dontcha know.

http://themorningspew.com/2011/09/22/with-obama-its-middle-class-or-no-class-at-all/#respond

bloggless on September 22, 2011 at 11:11 PM

At the time, the letter had not yet been sent to Secretary Sebelius.

First, if I understand what you are saying…i’m impressed.

Second, i actually saw one of the hearings on this. It was clearly a nutjob bill and even the committee head (conrad?) didn’t seem to like it too much. I think at that point, a person would only have to pay a tax for 5 or 10 years and then have their nursing care taken care of? Maybe I saw something totally different, but it was a whackjob of a bill

r keller on September 22, 2011 at 11:24 PM

I won’t be impressed until there’s at least one impeachment per week. The whole structure is so rotten that anything less is merely painting over the termites.

cthulhu on September 22, 2011 at 11:43 PM

There is a report that the Senate has quietly voted to defund the class act part of Obamacare. The house needs to ammend the senate bill to eliminate ALL of Obamacare and send it back to Harry Reid!

Let Harry Reid, and Obama, explain why they pushed this program into obamacare to defraud the CBO cost estimates.

The Republicans need to force Obama, and the Democrats, to admit that they deliberatly lied to the American people regarding the funding of Obamacare!

Freddy on September 23, 2011 at 12:12 AM

I personally find it difficult to believe that any State would elect this left-wing nut case to office. She is on the order of Mengele for decency. A truly unique case of cruelty and meaningless purpose.

pat on September 23, 2011 at 2:33 AM

Beside we folks here on the blogisphere who do we ever imagine is paying any attention to this stuff? Few here or care to – beyond the new free programs that the GOP is trying to take away,few voters will actully care to hear of this stuff.

Like fools that never check the oil in their care, they live in their own world and won’t give a hoot until the engine blows and then they’ll blame the manufacturer. I’m talking about some well educated folks as well as joe six-pack. They don’t much care beyond the bumper sticker lies and they do really want not to be bothered – they like living with the big lie.

Don L on September 23, 2011 at 7:48 AM

We need to take the Senate and Presidency and hold the House.

pedestrian on September 22, 2011 at 10:42 PM

We need to take the House too. Boehner has to go as Speaker.

Sporty1946 on September 23, 2011 at 7:51 AM

Drag her boney butt up to Capitol Hill where she can spend the entire day invoking her 5th Ammendment rights.

pilamaye on September 23, 2011 at 8:27 AM

Update:

I was wondering what happened to this story yesterday; it was up briefly and then gone down the memory hole. Had I known, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time looking for it again on HA.

This was not handled well Tina.

pain train on September 23, 2011 at 8:55 AM

OT: It looks like the PLO does not believe Israel should even exist

ConservativePartyNow on September 22, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Nothing new there I’m afraid. Besides they’re not the “PLO” anymore, they’re the “Palestinian Authority”. They’re the de facto government. They’re respectable now, even though they’re the same bunch of terrorists murdering women and children as they were before.

eyedoc on September 23, 2011 at 9:39 AM

Seek answers from Sebelius? Good luck with that! She’s as tight-mouthed as anyone in O’Bambi’s cabinet.

honsy on September 22, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Exactly! Something tells me her lips aren’t that thin naturally. Me thinks super glue and threats have helped them along.

capejasmine on September 23, 2011 at 9:53 AM

In order to get answers from Sebelius, wouldn’t there first have to be an assumption made that she knows what she’s doing in the first place?

She could care less if the whole ObamaCare fiasco crashes. Matter of fact, she’d welcome it. That way she could move right into Single Payer health care.

Which is want she and the rest of the libs have wanted since Day One.

GarandFan on September 23, 2011 at 10:45 AM

She could care less if the whole ObamaCare fiasco crashes. Matter of fact, she’d welcome it. That way she could move right into Single Payer health care.

Which is want she and the rest of the libs have wanted since Day One.

Right. And when the mandate gets struck down by the SCOTUS (if the rest of the bill is not struck down as well) that will be the beginning of the end for the private insurance carriers in this country. So one way or the other they get what they want, which is to destroy the health care system in this country.

eyedoc on September 23, 2011 at 1:10 PM