Sebelius Assured Congress She Could Fix ObamaCare's CLASS Act. HHS's Proposed Legislative Fix Suggests She Believed Otherwise.


Sebelius would like to thank all the little people who made this possible.

At a February hearing, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius assured lawmakers that she had the necessary administrative authority to fix the Community Living Assistance Service and Supports (CLASS) Act, the long term care benefit program attached to ObamaCare that even Sebelius now admits is "totally unsustainable." As James Capretta put it, Sebelius was asserting that "she has the administrative flexibility to essentially rewrite the program herself from scratch, with no input or changes necessary from lawmakers."

But she can't have been all that confident. Internal HHS documents revealed today by GOP congressional investigators reveal that the health agency was working on a legislative update to the CLASS act back in January. The goal of many of the proposed fixes? To give the HHS Secretary additional authority to modify the program—in particular, to modify its premiums. 

Back in May, Avik Roy pointed out in Forbes that the Congressional Research Service indicated that Sebelius did not in fact have the necessary administrative authority to rework the program. So it's not exactly surprising. But it does fit into a pattern of strategic obfuscation when it comes to the program. 

Here's what we now know about the CLASS Act: Democrats took advantage of the Congressional Budget Office's decade-long budget window to argue that the program reduces the deficit. Which it does, but only over the next decade. If enacted as written, it will add to the deficit in the long term. CLASS was billed as fiscally self-sustaining, but it's not. The administration now admits that they determined after the law's passage that it's not sustainable, but in fact, Democratic supporters of the program were clearly warned by government actuaries nearly a year before the law passed that the program looked like "a recipe for disaster." And now it seems that even as Sebelius was assuring members of Congress that she already had the authority to reform the program as she pleased, her agency was drafting multi-part legislative fixes designed to give her the authority they knew she lacked. 

And it's all part of a trillion-dollar health care overhaul that administration officials insisted was "an important step toward long-term fiscal sustainability." 


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  1. The White Witch lie? Shocked I tell you. I am shocked.

    1. I wonder if the whole “Always winter, never Christmas” thing is what’s throwing off the budget projections.

  2. It’s news when politicians tell the truth, not when they lie.

  3. We had to pass it to find out its crap.

  4. Wouldn’t it be nice if public policy could be managed and tweaked in a rational way instead of having every clause of every law be tallied in the “see I told you government sucks!” dick contest?

    1. So you’re just completely out of anything resembling a rational argument in support of this steaming pile then?

  5. Look, It’s an important program! One that will benefit many who would otherwise suffer unnecessarily. Let HHS fix it without the constant and counterproductive politics!

    How come it always comes down to money with you people?

    1. Guess so. Demagoguery it is, then.

      1. “Demagoguery”? That’s all you “Constitution Worshippers” do! Governance has outgrown the constitution and you all know it! The president was right! You really are all bitter clingers.

        More’s the pity!

    2. “How come it always comes down to money with you people?”

      TANSTAAFL [see Greece, Ireland, etc] Someone has to worry about how to pay for stuff.

    3. C-

      Needs more labels.

    4. How come it always comes down to money with you people?

      Because it always comes down to money, eventually?

      Worse, it always comes down to these people taking my money to fund their hobbies, obsessions, and delusions.

    5. Well, after obama completes the destruction of the US economy, then it will always comes down to barter.

    6. I have spent many hours creating the perfect rebuttal that perfectly matches Tony’s depth and intellect. I will use it (and only it) often: SHUT THE FUCK UP!!

  6. Welcome to another exciting episode of “Who’s the Real Tony”!

    1. who can tell? Sock-puppets to the left of me, sock-puppets to the right…

    2. The real Tony left us years ago. All “tonys” are now one sockpuppet or another.

  7. What are you crying about?

    All the really high class countries take care of their oldest and most vulnerable citizens.

    And besides, what with teh global warming and all, there aren’t enough ice floes to put them on.

    1. teh global warming

      You spelled “the” wrong. But it’s funny!

    2. not enough ice floats? so grandma has to swim w the polar bears? interesting visual…

      1. yep, grandma will join that dude who turned himself into grizzly bear scat

  8. How come it always comes down to money with you people?

    How come you never grasped the concept of limited resources, sockpuppet?

  9. I sprayed your shit sandwich with strawberry scented lysol, now stfu and eat plebs.

  10. This is today’s “Bitch Bites Man” story, right?

  11. GLaDOS runs this administration secretly, doesn’t it? If some spokeshead from the admin promises us cake next, that’ll just be the final confirmation.

  12. Wouldn’t it be nice if public policy could be managed and tweaked in a rational way

    (1) Oh the palpable pining for a lord and master, a philosopher god-king, just oozes from every pore, no?

    (2) If we were doing our public policy via rational tweaking, the whole fucking bill would have gone down in flames.

  13. I’m guessing these folks will get a pass on lying to federal officials.

  14. Nice orange outfit in the accompanying pic. Foreshadowing?

  15. CLASS Act opponents are dredging up comments and estimates from very early on, whereas the CLASS program continually evolved over the many months that health care reform was under consideration. The Secretary of HHS is now working to create the actual insurance program, and we should let her do that rather than rehashing old arguments that are now out of date.

    Furthermore, the critics cannot answer one simple question: How are long-term services and supports to be financed. In criticizing the CLASS Act for being “a flawed entitlement program,” they are completely overlooking the fact that an open-ended entitlement program, Medicaid, currently is the primary source of financing for long-term services and supports.

    Medicaid is a huge burden on both federal and state budgets, and the largest portion of Medicaid spending goes to long-term services and supports.

    One of the primary goals of the CLASS Act was to take some of that burden off of Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recognized reduced use of Medicaid as part of the budgetary savings it projected for the CLASS Act.

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