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A 'devastating' setback for Obama's health law?
A key benefit in President Obama's health-care reform package proves unaffordable, and bites the dust. Is the rest of the law in danger?
President Obama's health care reform suffers a blow after its prohibitively expensive long-term care insurance program is dropped.
President Obama's health care reform suffers a blow after its prohibitively expensive long-term care insurance program is dropped.
CC BY: The White House
T

he Obama administration has dropped a major part of the president's health-care reform plan — a long-term care insurance program that had been championed by the late senator Ted Kennedy. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program was supposed to account for $86 billion of the $210 billion in deficit savings promised under Obama's reforms, because premiums were supposed to exceed benefit payments. But a review showed CLASS would have lost money, so, according to a provision in the law, it had to be scrapped. Is this development going to prove "devastating" for Obama's signature legislative achievement?

Yes, ObamaCare is unraveling: This "perfectly illustrates the recklessness that produced the Affordable Care Act," says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The Obama administration was cooking the books when it said ObamaCare would save us money, and now, by admitting the truth, it has vindicated its Republican critics. If the same "truth in advertising" provision were applied to the rest of the law, "ObamaCare would collapse in a heartbeat."
"ObamaCare Starts to unravel"

Actually, this vindicates the Affordable Care Act's backers: CLASS indeed had "a potentially fatal design flaw," says Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic. It was voluntary, so "old and sick people" would probably have been the only ones to enroll, without premiums from younger, healthier people to keep it afloat. So, if anything, the collapse of CLASS "strengthens the case" for the provision in the health-care reform law "that conservatives claim to hate most: The individual mandate."
"A setback for Obamacare? Or vindication? How about both"

This is nothing for anyone to celebrate: "With CLASS dead, we are left with an utterly failed system," says Howard Gleckman at Forbes. Half of Americans have less than $55,000 in financial assets, which barely covers nine months in a nursing home. Once a long-term care patient's money runs out, it's up to the already cash-strapped Medicaid to step in. So instead of mourning CLASS, or dancing on its grave, everybody "must sit down and work out a consensus plan."
"CLASS is killed: But how will we pay for long-term care services?"

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