Obama amends health plan

The government's plan for long-term care was dropped after a 19-month review found that it would have lost money.

The Obama administration dropped long-term care insurance from its health-care reform law last week after finding that it cost too much. The program, known as Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, would have given workers the option of paying an affordable monthly premium to collect a daily cash benefit if they became disabled later in life. But an 19-month government review determined that the program would have lost money, so it had to be scrapped. “We have not identified a way to make CLASS work,” said Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who added that the move “does not affect” the rest of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said CLASS was just one part “of an unwise, unsustainable law” that should be repealed in full.

This aborted plan illustrates the “recklessness that produced the Affordable Care Act,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The president’s claim that his health reforms would save us money has now been proved patently false. If Obamacare as a whole were subjected to a similar financial audit, it “would collapse in a heartbeat.”

CLASS had a “fatal design flaw,” said Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic. It was voluntary, so only the “old and sick” would have enrolled. Without premiums from younger people, it was doomed to go bust. The rest of the Affordable Care Act is financially stable because it makes health insurance compulsory. But Republicans attack Obama’s reforms no matter what he does. They should just admit that they don’t think it’s “worthwhile to make sure everybody can pay their medical bills.”

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Bickering won’t fix our “utterly failed system,” said Howard Gleckman in Forbes.com. Twenty million people will need long-term care in the next few decades. But half of Americans have less than $55,000 in financial assets—barely enough to cover nine months in a nursing home. Once a patient’s money runs out, cash-strapped Medicaid must step in. To prevent financial disaster, our leaders must stop squabbling and “work out a consensus plan.”

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