HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

When the White House effectively killed the CLASS Act, the program’s most vocal advocates dug in their heels in hopes of resurrecting the long-term care insurance program.

In the storied Washington tradition of making controversial announcements on a Friday afternoon, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration had no way to make the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act work. This drew a quick rebuke from LeadingAge, which represents 5,000 nonprofit providers, and Advance CLASS, an advocacy group. 

“The President of the United States promised to implement this program, and until we hear something different directly from the White House, we will expect him to keep that promise,” Advance CLASS executive director Connie Garner said in a joint statement with LeadingAge CEO Larry Minnix. “The actuarial report established that CLASS can be implemented sustainably. The specific steps it recommends may not be perfect, but provide plenty of ideas for continued development and eventual implementation of a sustainable program.”

But in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sebelius wrote: “Recognizing the enormous need in this country for better long-term care insurance options, we cast as wide a net as possible in searching for a model that could succeed. But as a report our department is releasing today shows, we have not identified a way to make CLASS work at this time.”

CLASS — which has received withering criticism for much of the summer — was projected to trim healthcare costs of  $86 billion over the next 10 years if enough participants bought in. Sebelius maintained that the program would not be implemented unless it could prove financial solvency for 75 years.