As Republicans in Congress work to repeal President Barack Obama's health overhaul law as they said they would durring their party's successful 2010 elections, the President appears deadest in fighting GOP efforts no matter what critics, or advisors, say.
On Monday The Hill reported that the President may veto Republican efforts to repeal the CLASS Act, a major new program intended to provide affordable long-term care insurance. The President's possible challenge comes as a surprise considering Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday that the her department could not find a financially sustainable way to implement the Act, despite 19 months of "our best analytical efforts." The Hill on the White House's uphill battle:
"'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 CLASS Act advocates 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."
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a ruling on Monday already factoring in an inevitable repeal of the CLASS Act, which the administration has since rejected. News of the White House's persistence on the issue has confused opponents and supporters alike.
"If they said they want to hibernate it for a couple of years, that would be clearer than what they are saying now," said Larry Minnix to the AP. Minnix is president of LeadingAge, a trade group representing non-profit nursing homes, which are strong supporters of CLASS.
"I feel like somebody just called me about how to do really good pet care after they shot my dog."
The Hill notes the central role that the CLASS Act played in the President's vision of healthcare reform:
"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 health law's $210 billion in total estimated deficit reduction over the next decade."
At the present moment, a repeal of the CLASS Act would not effect the federal budget because the program was never implemented in the first place.
The CLASS Act was supposed to function as a self-sustaining voluntary insurance plan, open to working adults regardless of age or health, reports the AP:
"Workers would pay an affordable monthly premium during their careers and could collect a modest daily cash benefit of at least $50 if they became disabled later in life. The money could go for services at home or to help with nursing home bills.
But a central design flaw dogged CLASS. Unless large numbers of healthy people willingly sign up during their working years, soaring premiums driven by the needs of disabled beneficiaries would destabilize it, eventually requiring a taxpayer bailout."
The HHS ruling on the program's long-term viability has confirmed and catalyzed congressional Republicans' vow to repeal the act. Republicans see the administration's refusal to take HHS advice as further evidence that the White House is operating outside of political reality.
"It defies logic for the White House to admit this part of their health spending bill would put an unsustainable burden on taxpayers, yet demand it stay on the books," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to the AP.
Bills to repeal the Act are sponsored by John Thune (R-S.D.) in the Senate with 32 Republican cosponsors, and Charles Boustany (R-La.) in the House. The House bill has 48 cosponsors, including Democrat Dan Lipinski of Illinois.