WASHINGTON BUREAU -- A Louisiana Republican is seeking cosponsors for H.R. 5853, a bill that could block implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) long term care benefits program.
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., introduced the bill Monday.
One section of the Affordable Care Act, the federal package that includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), would create a voluntary, participant-funded long term care benefits program. Workers would be enrolled in the program automatically but could choose to opt out.
Critics, including analysts at the Congressional Budget Office and Rick Foster, the chief actuary of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, have argued that the CLASS program would be unsound and would enter a "death spiral," with premiums escalating and the health status of the remaining insureds deteriorating.
H.R. 5853, the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act, would require the government to shut down the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act program if government actuaries said the program was unsound.
H.R. 5853 also would require the government to shut the CLASS Act program down immediately if the program became actuarially unsound. The program would have to refund program premiums or let enrollees use the funds in the accounts for other purposes.
The secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would have to report to Congress on the final design of the CLASS plan.
Boustany says he added this provision because the "new health-care law provides inadequate Congressional oversight" over CLASS program design.
The Boustany bill would prevent implementation of a CLASS plan unless the plan received approval from two-thirds of the members of both the House and the Senate.
The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), Westlake Village, Calif., has taken note of the Boustany bill.
Jesse Slome, executive director of the AALTCI,
says in a letter that the CLASS Act is not set to be implemented until 2013.
"If the plan is going to be changed, now would be the time, before employers have to evaluate the pros and cons and dollars are withheld from employee paychecks," Slome says.
In a letter to colleagues seeking bill cosponsors, Boustany says most Americans remain unaware of the CLASS program.
"Speaker of the House [Nancy] Pelosi and her allies behaved recklessly when they used the CLASS program as a $70 billion budget gimmick to fund other portions of the new health-care law," Boustany says. "Instead of setting money from CLASS premiums aside solely for promised benefits, Democrats used it to pay for other parts of the new health law and merely put an IOU in a government trust fund. Americans could be required to repay these IOUs in the form of higher taxes."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article described the AALTCI's position on H.R. 5853 incorrectly. The AALTCI would like any changes to be made soon but has not taken a position on the bill.