Week ahead: HHS faces fallout after ending controversial healthcare program

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The Health and Human Services (HHS) Department announced Friday that it would not implement the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, which was designed to provide long-term-care insurance. It’s by far the biggest piece of healthcare reform to meet its demise; HHS acknowledged in a Friday afternoon announcement that the program simply couldn’t be made to work.
 
With the House in recess this week, Republicans should have plenty of time to make the case that CLASS is a fitting symbol for broader flaws in the healthcare law — as they argued even before it officially fell apart.
 
Incidentally, before HHS’s announcement, the highlight of this week’s healthcare agenda was a previously scheduled speech from Bob Yee, the CLASS actuary whose emails publicized the department’s early moves toward shutting down the program.
 
The death of the CLASS program also wipes out $86 billion in savings that had been attributed to the healthcare law. The White House is losing that revenue as a new congressional supercommittee enters a new phase of its search for a minimum $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.
 
Congressional committees had until Friday to submit ideas to the 12-member bipartisan panel, and the healthcare proposals fell across predictable partisan lines.
 
Democrats, including Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), are pressing the supercommittee to avoid cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and to cut federal spending on prescription drugs instead. Republicans want to see major changes to both programs, including an increase in the Medicare eligibility age.
 
Aside from the supercommittee’s ongoing talks, this week should be a quiet one on Capitol Hill. The Senate Health committee is holding a hearing Tuesday on older Americans and the recession.