Weekly Columns

More Financial Instability Revealed in the Health Care Law

CLASS Act Program Deemed Insolvent

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Washington, October 19, 2011 | comments

Friday’s announcement by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to dissolve the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act—a component of the new health care law—is another example of the many unsustainable aspects in the legislation. The president’s health care law threatens the good parts of our health care system and will only further insert government bureaucrats into health care decisions that should be made by the patient and their physician. 

The CLASS Act is defined as a “voluntary” insurance program that would cover home health-care options for adults who become disabled. However, the story that’s not told is that the health care law requires participating employers to auto-enroll all workers in the CLASS entitlement program – unless a worker pays close attention and takes the time to opt out. The framework for this entitlement program created under the law is simply unsustainable and too expensive.

The CLASS Act is another example of how the health care law fails to address the cost crisis within the current health care system, and in fact, dramatically increases costs for all involved.  The core program is simply too expensive, and the problem was compounded by not doing enough to address important cost issues. As a cosponsor of H.R. 1173, legislation to repeal the CLASS Act, the decision to table the program is the right alternative because we simply cannot afford the costs for this program moving forward.

Another flawed aspect of the health care law that has since been rescinded was the “mystery shoppers” program. This program directed employees of the administration to pose as patients, call doctors’ offices and request appointments to see how difficult it is for Americans to obtain primary care. The mystery shoppers program is a perfect example of the type of waste that Americans want the government to eliminate.  We don’t need a government bureaucrat to tell us we have a shortage in physicians – we see it with our own eyes.  We know Medicare and Medicaid pay physicians less than the cost of care, so it is hardly surprising that Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries have more access problems than those with private insurance.

Our country’s health care system is facing a quality of care and an access to care crisis. According to a new report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, a leading health policy foundation, the U.S. healthcare system is falling far behind other industrialized nations when it comes to providing quality care to patients. Further, our patients are not living when they should be, even when their conditions are preventable or treatable – such as bacterial infections, screenable cancers, diabetes and complications from surgery.

Access to care will only continue to decrease if the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is left in the health care law. This board has serious implications that will negatively affect our health care system, and it strips away accountability to the American people by bypassing Congressional oversight. IPAB, like the CLASS Act, is simply the wrong solution for addressing budgetary challenges in our Medicare system, and its repeal must be considered with urgency before it gets too expensive to overturn. By repealing the IPAB now, we will ensure that medical decisions are made between patients and their doctor, not unelected Washington bureaucrats.

To fix the problem, we must also implement a permanent fix for the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), which sets Medicare payments to physicians for the care they provide. Either through way of the supercommittee or through passage of legislation, the bottom line is, fixing the SGR will bring some stability to our medical system, so it must be done.

Our health care system is facing many challenges, which only seem to be made worse by the president’s health care law. Repealing harmful aspects of the legislation that are unsustainable and that may hinder access to care are necessary elements for improvement.  

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