House repeals CLASS Act

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HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

The House of Representatives repealed the CLASS Act on Wednesday night, although its future is far from clear.

The vote on H.R. 1173 was 267-159.

Many observers expect Republican efforts to repeal CLASS will die in the Senate, where there is likely not enough support to push through the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act. The CLASS Act refers to the Community Living and Retirement Security Act, and was designed to be a long-term care insurance program.

One of the reasons Republicans are determined to officially repeal the already-shelved program is that they are concerned aging and disability activists will drag the law to the court system, experts said. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Affordable Care Act requires Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to designate a plan for CLASS by Oct. 1, 2012. Failure to do so could force Sebelius to implement the law as it is. The Obama administration deemed the legislation fiscally unsustainable in October.

But Connie Garner, Ph.D., the executive director of Advance CLASS, which advocates for the program, says that even if CLASS does not survive in its current form, the need for a long-term care benefit is not going to go away.

“We're going to fight the repeal to keep the debate alive,” Garner told McKnight's. “This forces an opportunity to find a solution. If not CLASS, then what?”

LeadingAge President and CEO Larry Minnix echoed Garner's sentiments. He said that while he is disappointed with the House's vote to repeal, his organization will redouble its efforts to prevent repeal efforts from going any further.

“We need to keep CLASS alive because we believe it can be made to work. It is the only alternative so far to Medicaid as the primary means of financing long-term services and supports," Minnix said, in a statement to McKnight's.