A longstanding priority of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program, or CLASS, was spliced into the health care law despite nagging budget worries. Administration emails and documents reveal that alarms were sounded earlier and more widely than previously thought. Congressional Republicans seeking repeal of the program provided the materials to The Associated Press.
“Seems like a recipe for disaster to me,” William Marton, a senior aging policy official in the administration, wrote in an October 2009 email. Marton explained his concern that large numbers of healthy people would not willingly sign up for CLASS, creating a predicament in which soaring premiums for a smaller group of frail beneficiaries would destabilize the program…
Obama’s own bipartisan debt commission last year recommended major reforms or repeal of CLASS, as did another independent advisory group. Nursing homes and long-term care providers support the program, while private long-term care insurance companies oppose it. CLASS poses a dilemma for the new congressional supercommittee, since it initially reduces the federal deficit until payouts overwhelm premiums collected.
The emails show that the first warning about CLASS came in May 2009, from Richard Foster, head of long range economic forecasts for Medicare. “At first glance this proposal doesn’t look workable,” Foster wrote in an email to other HHS officials, some of whom were working with Congress to get CLASS into the health care law.