HHS spent nearly $5 million on CLASS implementation before abandoning it

Today, at a joint hearing of two subcommittees of the Energy and Commerce Committee, a couple of Health and Human Services officials testified that HHS spent nearly $5 million to implement the long-term care insurance program known as CLASS before it abandoned the program as unworkable.

No excuse exists for that waste: Experts within HHS warned the program was fiscally unsustainable even before Congress passed CLASS as a part of Obamacare. Perhaps even more tellingly, the department spent more than half that money in just the past few months, when concerns about the viability of the program were mounting. In August, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) requested to know how much money the department had spent on the program. At that time, HHS reported spendings of just $2.2 million.

The tidbit of information comes as a timely reminder that, even though the administration has decided to abandon CLASS (over the president’s objections), taxpayers could still be on the hook for the program as long as it remains on the books. While Obamacare repeal will require a new Senate and White House, repeal of the CLASS component is increasingly within reach. Democrats and Republicans alike have opposed it from the start (12 Democrats voted to strip it from the PPACA in the original health care debate, for example). With the administration’s stamp of disapproval, passage of a repeal bill really shouldn’t seem like such a stretch. Yes, Obama has promised to veto, but that promise is so nonsensical in light of all that his own team has said that Congress should force him to veto anyway. That will barely look better than if Obama agreed to repeal part of his own health care law. (Again, I maintain it would actually be good for President Obama’s reelection chances if he admitted parts of Obamacare — or even the whole bill — were a mistake.)

Thune introduced a bill to repeal CLASS in April and persists in his quest for its passage. Obama has demonstrated he’ll take any opportunity to resurrect CLASS — and, if he wins a second term, the disastrous program might very well be implemented along with all of Obamacare. That underscores both the importance of blocking his reelection — and of doing whatever possible to repeal CLASS now.

Thune put it this way in a statement:

“After ignoring repeated warnings from budget experts and Congressional Republicans, HHS still spent nearly $5 million of taxpayers’ hard-earned money to implement a program it now says has no ‘viable path forward.’ As families across America continue to struggle financially, the Obama Administration has wasted nearly $5 million on a failed program.

“While HHS says it will not move forward with this fiscally unsustainable program at this time, so long as the CLASS Act remains on the books, taxpayers are at risk of future implementation. Before any more money is spent on this failed program, Congress should immediately repeal the CLASS Act and move to fully repeal Obamacare.”