Obama opposes repeal of healthcare program suspended last week

President Obama is against repealing the health law's long-term-care CLASS Act and might veto Republican efforts to do so, an administration official tells The Hill, despite the government's announcement Friday that the program was dead in the water.

"We do not support repeal," the official said Monday. "Repealing the CLASS Act isn't necessary or productive. What we should be doing is working together to address the long-term care challenges we face in this country."

Over the weekend, The Hill has learned, an administration official called advocates of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act to reassure them that Obama is still committed to making the program work. That official also told advocates that widespread media reports on the program's demise were wrong, leaving advocates scratching their heads.

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday in a blog post on the liberal Huffington Post website that the administration did not see a way to make the program sustainable. Sebelius indicated her agency hadn't been able to figure out a way to ensure the program providing long-term care paid for itself as required by law. 

Later in a call with reporters on Friday, an HHS official said work on the program was being suspended. 

"We won't be working further to implement the CLASS Act. … We don't see a path forward to be able to do that," Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee told reporters on Friday.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, said Monday that repealing the program would not add to the deficit, making Republican repeal efforts that much easier.


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The Obama administration sold the healthcare law with the argument that it would lower the nation's long-term health costs, and the CLASS Act was an important reason why.

CBO had scored the long-term-care program for people with disabilities as saving the nation $86 billion in spending over 10 years — that's about 40 percent of the reform law's $210 billion in total estimated deficit reduction over the next decade. 

In a new blog post, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf clarified that last week's decision by the Obama administration not to implement the program means those savings are now moot. Because the program is not being implemented, Elmendorf said a repeal bill would not be considered saving money. 

"Following longstanding procedures," Elmendorf wrote, "CBO takes new administrative actions into account when analyzing legislation being considered by the Congress — even if it has not published new baseline projections. Beginning immediately, therefore, legislation to repeal the CLASS provisions in current law would be estimated as having no budgetary impact."

New baseline budget projections due out in January, Elmendorf wrote, "will assume that the program will not be implemented (unless there are changes in law or other actions by the administration that would supersede Friday's announcement)."

In the Senate, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has a bill to repeal the CLASS Act that has attracted 32 Republican co-sponsors. In the House, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) has a similar bill with 48 co-sponsors, including Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois.

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