Strike One against CLASS

Speaker Boehner lead the House of Representatives on Wednesday to overwhelmingly pass a bill repealing the long-term care entitlement in ObamaCare — the one that Democratic leaders have described as “completely unsustainable” and “a Ponzi scheme of the first order” and which the Obama administration could see “no viable path forward” to implement.

The vote to repeal the CLASS Act was 267-159, with 28 Democrats joining 239 voting Republicans in passing the repeal bill, which now heads to the Senate for an uncertain fate. President Obama has vowed to veto any efforts to strike the program from his health overhaul law, even though there is considerable risk to the administration for keeping the program on the books.

The Congressional Research Service has said the courts could order CLASS to be implemented even if it is financially unsustainable. Repeal is essential.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said after the vote: “In the past, lawmakers would have worked together to amend existing law to address a serious national crisis like long-term care.” What he likely means is that if the individual mandate is upheld by the Supreme Court, he’ll come back to force us to buy the long-term care coverage so the program can survive.

CLASS (the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports) Act would pay $50 a day — $18,250 a year — for long-term care services for anyone who had paid premiums for five years. Participation was voluntary, and it was inevitable that the program would attract older, sicker people, sending CLASS into a death spiral. Some estimates concluded premiums would have had to be $3,000 a month for the program to break even.

Since participation is voluntary, HHS could not figure out a way to guarantee the program would be fiscally sound for 75 years without taxpayer bailouts, a requirement that former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NY) managed to get into the health law.

But news of the program’s demise was a slap in the face to CLASS advocates, who knew it was in trouble but were surprised that the program got a death certificate when the administration pulled the plug on implementing it last fall. A recent article lamenting its failure inadvertently admitted the core problem with the law:

Howard Gleckman of the Urban Institute wrote in the journal Health Affairs: “[T]he law allowed low-income people to purchase coverage for just $5 a month. That meant that many enrollees could pay just $300 over five years and receive at least $18,000 a year in benefits for the rest of their lives.”

People need long-term care insurance, but this isn’t it. Full repeal of CLASS is the only way to protect future generations from another entitlement tsunami.

*****

One of our countless concerns with growing government control over the health sector is additional bureaucratic delay in getting new treatments to patients. We’re seeing more and more evidence of these hurdles.

And we have another example. The Food and Drug Administration expedited approval of a new vaccine, called Prevnar 13, which prevents pneumonia and related diseases in people over age 50 by targeting the most common pneumonia bacterium (Streptococcus pneumoniae).

The FDA approved the use of Prevnar 13 in December under its “accelerated approval pathway,” which allows for faster consideration of treatments for serious and life-threatening illnesses.

At least 300,000 adults are hospitalized each year because they contract this form of pneumonia and at least 5,000 of them die. “Pneumococcal disease is a substantial cause of illness and death,” the FDA wrote in its release. “Today’s approval provides an additional vaccine” for this disease.

So you should be able to get it right away, right?

Wrong. There is yet another hurdle — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) apparently does not share the FDA’s sense of urgency in getting this life-saving medicine to patients.

In its meeting later this month, Prevnar 13 is slated only for “Information and Discussion” but not a vote. That’s important because ACIP votes to decide what vaccines to recommend for the adult immunization schedule. Public programs like Medicare and private insurers rely on ACIP for guidance on what vaccines they will pay for.

No vote. No vaccine.

ACIP only meets three times a year. If it doesn’t vote on the vaccine during its February meeting, then it will be June until a vote could be held. That means at least 100,000 adults could be hospitalized unnecessarily and more than 1,500 could die waiting for the government agency to act.

The vaccine has been approved by the FDA as safe and the FDA put it on its “accelerated approval pathway” to get it to patients faster. Prevnar 13 already has been approved for use in children age 6 weeks to 5 years old, and administration of the vaccine supports the government’s Healthy People 2020 objectives.

A delay is not just another bureaucratic hurdle. It can cost lives.

*****

CLIPS OF THE WEEK

Sally Pipes on what could replace ObamaCare

Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute talks about her new book, The Pipes Plan, to replace ObamaCare’s expensive government health care bureaucracies with a market-driven system that would offer better treatment to patients while saving taxpayers money. Watch now >>

State of the Union Policy Series

American Enterprise Institute health policy scholars, Thomas Miller, Joe Antos, and Bob Helms discuss health and budget policy challenges in this forum on the State of the Union.

CLASS ACT REPEAL

Defend Freedom — Repeal CLASS

Grace-Marie Turner
National Review Online: Critical Condition, 02/01/12

Democratic senator Tom Harkin of Iowa may have inadvertently revealed why President Obama has pledged to veto efforts by Congress to repeal a part of ObamaCare that already has failed — the long-term-care entitlement program known as the CLASS Act. “The problem with CLASS is that it’s voluntary,” Senator Harkin said on Tuesday. In the liberal mind, the program would be fine if we were forced to pay into its long-term-care program. The president is determined to keep CLASS on the books, apparently hoping that the Supreme Court will declare the individual mandate constitutional, requiring us to purchase health insurance. If it does, then it would be only a small step to a new mandate for long-term care.
Read More »

Repeal Of ObamaCare’s CLASS Act Is Essential

Grace-Marie Turner
Forbes: Health Matters, 01/30/12

CLASS must be repealed in this Congress. If the Supreme Court were to uphold the individual mandate in ObamaCare, a mandate to purchase long-term care insurance would surely be next. But this controversy is about even more than stopping a new unsustainable entitlement program. This is about the future of freedom itself and what the government can command us to purchase with our private money. It is a microcosm of the problems with ObamaCare. The only reason that ObamaCare pretends to hold together is because Americans are required by federal law to purchase health insurance. If the Supreme Court declares, as it should, that its mandate is unconstitutional, ObamaCare would collapse, just as CLASS has done.
Read More »

 

CLASS Warfare

Grace-Marie Turner
Interview with Radio America, 01/31/12

In this interview with Greg Corombos for Dateline: Washington, Grace-Marie explains the CLASS Act, why it is financially unfeasible, and the importance of the repeal effort.
Listen Now » 

MORE ON THE CLASS ACT

CLASS Act: Abandoned yet defended
Brett Norman and Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico, 01/31/12

Repealing the CLASS Act
Robert Book, Forbes: The Apothecary, 02/01/12

Congressional Research Service: Courts Could Force HHS to Implement CLASS Act, Despite Its Insolvency
Avik Roy, Forbes: The Apothecary, 02/01/12

CLASS Act: Abandoned, but Still Loved
John Goodman, Health Policy Blog, 02/02/12

Repeal CLASS Act already
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Politico, 01/31/12

‘The Problem with CLASS Is That It’s Voluntary.’
Michael F. Cannon, Cato @ Liberty, 02/01/12

CLASS Act Repeal Vote Approaching in the House
Alyene Senger, The Foundry, 01/31/12

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

ObamaCare’s Latest Assault on Freedom

Grace-Marie Turner
Canada Free Press, 02/02/12

The Catholic Church has unleashed a firestorm of opposition to the Obama Administration’s announcement last month that it will require religious-affiliated organizations to provide coverage by next year for contraception — including controversial drugs that can abort an early pregnancy. There is a war on religion from the Left, and it is very dangerous to the institutions that make our civil society function. The Catholic Church historically has been a vital part of the safety net — providing aid for the poor, care for the sick, shelter and food for the homeless, and care for mothers in need, as a few examples. Every institution in the country is now wondering whether they will be the next target of the ObamaCare assault on freedom. It’s a crucial reason why the whole health law, with its centralized government control over health care decisions, must not stand.
Read More » 

MORE ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

A Clash of Conscience
James C. Capretta, National Review Online, 01/30/12

Catholic Backlash Against Obama Grows
George E. Condon Jr., National Journal, 02/01/12

Morning Bell: Obamacare’s Latest Victim Is Religious Freedom
Mike Brownfield, The Foundry, 02/02/12

Contraceptives Mandate Brings ObamaCare’s Coercive Power into Sharper Focus
Michael F. Cannon, Cato @ Liberty, 02/01/12

Obamacare’s Contraception Mandate Tramples on Religious Liberty
David S. Addington, The Foundry, 02/01/12

ROMNEYCARE

Scoring Last Week’s RomneyCare Debate

Grace-Marie Turner
The Wall Street Journal, 01/30/12

Rick Santorum went for the jugular in last week’s Republican presidential debate, exposing Mitt Romney’s weak and contradictory defense of his Massachusetts health-reform law. Mr. Santorum challenged Mr. Romney on his claim that RomneyCare is “very different than ObamaCare,” citing a new study that lists key features the two plans have in common, including the Medicaid expansion, an employer mandate and the individual mandate. Mr. Romney repeatedly says he believes in state-level solutions. But when he says he wants to give states more discretion in implementing ObamaCare, there is very little daylight between his position and President Obama’s. Unless Mr. Romney takes steps to conform his position with reality, he will have trouble convincing voters he is serious about repeal and will have an even harder time mapping a clear plan on health reform should he be elected president.
Read More » 

MORE ON ROMNEYCARE

‘Romneycare,’ meet ‘Obamacare’
Kate Nocera, Politico, 01/30/12

Romney vs. Obamacare
Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, 02/02/12

HEALTH REFORM

How CMS’s Final Regulations for Accountable Care Organizations Fall Flat
John Hoff, The Heritage Foundation, 01/02/12

What about the OTHER payroll tax?
Thomas P. Miller, Butler on Business, 01/30/12

States Under Pressure As Health Law Deadlines Approach
Marilyn Werber Serafini, Kaiser Health News, 02/01/12

A Guide to the Supreme Court’s Review of the 2010 Health Care Reform Law
Kaiser Family Foundation, 01/12

American Health Economy Illustrated
Christopher J. Conover, AEI Press, 02/12

MEDICARE AND MEDICAID

Medicare Premium Support: The Best Reform Option
Robert Moffit, Ph.D. and Rea Hederman, Jr., The Heritage Foundation, 02/02/12

Saving Medicaid: A Path to Comprehensive Medicaid Reform
Nina Owcharenko, The Heritage Foundation, 02/01/12

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

Making the Case for Longer Pharmaceutical Patent Protection
Josh Bloom, Medical Progress Today, 01/26/12

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COMPARATIVE EFFECTIVENESS RESEARCH

Inside the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute: No Promise of Protection from Government Rationing
Kathryn Nix, The Heritage Foundation, 01/26/12

Events

Grace-Marie Turner on Just Speak Up
Monday, February 6, 2012
12:15pm ET

Grace-Marie Turner on the Lou Dobbs Show
Monday, February 6, 2012
3:30pm ET

Policy Megachange and Health Information Exchange
The Brookings Institution
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
10:00am – 11:30am
Washington, DC

CPAC 2012
Thursday, February 9 – Saturday, February 11, 2012
Washington, DC
Grace-Marie Turner will speak on a panel about “Why Obamacare Must Be Repealed” at 9am on Friday, February 10. At 1:25pm on Friday, Grace-Marie will participate in a panel discussion on “Obamacare: Why It’s Unconstitutional And What Conservatives Need to Do.”

Hatton W. Sumners Distinguished Lecture Series with Jeb Bush
National Center for Policy Analysis Event
Thursday, February 23, 2012
12:00pm – 1:15pm
Dallas, TX

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