Keeping the Financing of Long Term Services and Supports a Priority

Even though the CLASS Act has been repealed, The Arc is working with Advance CLASS to keep the issue of long-term services and supports financing on the front burner, and we need your help. One way you can help is by reminding your Members of Congress that this issue impacts millions of Americans and that it is a priority for the disability community. Visit the online petition to register your support.

House to take up CLASS repeal

On Wednesday, January 25, the House of Representatives is expected to begin consideration of legislation that would repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program, H.R. 1173. Two House committees, the Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee, have already approved this repeal bill. The CLASS program was created to help working adults prepare for their future in the event they need help maintaining independence in the community. It was also intended to take the pressure off Medicaid, so that Medicaid can better serve the needs of people with disabilities and low income communities. The Arc believes the CLASS program must be reformed, not repealed. Repealing the program would remove any incentive for Congress to address the real and growing crisis in long term services and supports.

House Committee to markup CLASS repeal bill

On January 18, 2012, the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to markup a bill to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, H.R. 1173. In October, 2011, the Administration announced that it was halting implementation of the CLASS program due to problems it believes must be resolved before implementation can move forward.  Some Members of Congress are using the Administration’s action to call for a full repeal of the CLASS Act rather than looking to make needed changes.

The CLASS program was created to help working adults prepare for their future in the event they need help maintaining independence in the community. It was also intended to take the pressure off Medicaid, so that Medicaid can better serve the needs of people with disabilities and low income communities. Without a program like CLASS, the Medicaid program will continue to take on the load of long term service needs for many Americans, who will be forced into a lifetime of poverty to qualify for this assistance.

The Arc will continue to support the CLASS program and has urged that Members of Congress reform, rather than repeal, the program.  The Arc is concerned that repealing the CLASS Act would result in Congress ignoring the crisis in long term services and supports.

House Energy and Commerce Committee votes on CLASS Program repeal

On November 30, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), approved H.R. 1173, the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011, which repeals the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program, by a vote of 33 to 17. The CLASS program would help working adults prepare for their future in the event they need help maintaining independence in the community.  It was also intended to take the pressure off Medicaid, so that Medicaid can better serve the needs of low income communities.  Without a program like CLASS, the Medicaid program will continue to take on the load of long term service needs for many Americans, who will be forced into a lifetime of poverty to qualify for this assistance. The Administration has halted implementation of the CLASS program due to problems it encountered which it believes need resolution before implementation can move forward. The Arc will continue to support the CLASS program and has urged that Members of Congress reform, rather than repeal, the program.

Joint Select Committee update

The Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Doug Elmendorf said his office had provided the Committee with a “tremendous amount” of estimates of the budgetary effects of different proposals that they are considering. This is the first such statement indicating that the Committee has developed specific deficit reduction plans. Also last week, the Senate’s “Gang of Six” (Senators Conrad (D-ND), Durbin (D-IL), Warner (D-VA), Coburn (R-OK), Crapo (R-ID), and Chambliss (R-GA)) met with the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction behind closed doors. This was first time an outside group has met with the full Committee, but no details were provided. Earlier this year, the Gang of Six released the outline of a plan to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years through a combination of spending cuts, a tax overhaul, and changes to entitlement programs. Included in their summary plan were the following proposals that would adversely impact people with disabilities: use of the “chained” consumer price index (CPI) in calculating cost of living adjustments for federal programs, repeal of the CLASS program, and large funding cuts in entitlement programs.

House to hold hearing examining CLASS

In light of new developments with CLASS, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a hearing to examine CLASS and will call witnesses from HHS and other experts in the field. The hearing will take place on Wednesday, October 26, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.

Some Members of Congress are calling for immediate repeal of CLASS. For additional information about the hearing, click here.

CLASS Program – Obama Administration announces plans to halt work for now

On October 14, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released A Report on the Actuarial, Marketing, and Legal Analyses of the CLASS Program.  The report details the work of the Administration in preparation for implementation of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program, a national premium-based, long term supports insurance plan designed to assist people to meet their long term service needs without requiring them to become impoverished for Medicaid eligibility.  In his September 20th Actuarial Report on the Development of CLASS Benefit Plans, Bob Yee, CLASS Office Chief Actuary, concluded, “We believe the CLASS Benefit Plan can be designed to be a value proposition to the American workers as the CLASS Act prescribed it.  Much work remains to be done on plan development.  The ultimate size of its enrollment will depend on marketing efforts to produce wide public acceptance of the CLASS Program.”  Despite that conclusion by the actuary, Secretary Sebelius announced on October 14, that “despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time.”  Other concerns, including legal and marketing concerns, played a role in the Secretary’s decision.  The Arc and other advocates of the CLASS Program will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to resolve the problems identified so that the program can move forward to address this critical area of unmet need.

In the meantime, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittees on Health and on Oversight and Investigations will hold a joint hearing titled “CLASS [Community Living Assistance Service and Supports] Cancelled: An Unsustainable Program and Its Consequences for the Nation’s Deficit.” has scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Work of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction gets Underway

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Co-Chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, issued a statement on August 24. “[W]e are engaging in serious discussions to determine what set of rules will govern the committee’s operation, examining a schedule of potential meetings and exploring how to build a committee staff that will help us achieve success. Additionally, most of the committee members are reviewing the deficit reduction work that many others have engaged in over the past several years.”

The statement did not address when the Committee will hold its initial organizational meeting (the law that created the Committee, the Budget Control Act, requires the first meeting be held by Sept. 16). It also remains unclear whether the Committee’s proceedings will be open to the public and who will be selected for the important job of staff director. Several lawmakers and open government organizations have urged the Committee to hold its meetings in public. The Budget Control Act specifies that the Committee’s first meeting be open to the public, but leaves it up to the Committee to craft its own rules for subsequent meetings.

According to press reports, the Committee also is building a website designed to provide the public with a way to weigh in with their ideas and their thoughts to reduce the deficit.

The deficit reduction work alluded to in the statement of the Committee’s Co-Chairs may include the following:

  1. Fiscal Commission December 2010 report – The Moment of Truth
  2. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) March 2011 report – Reducing the Deficit: Spending and Revenue Options
  3. Government Accountability Office (GAO) March 2011 report – Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue
  4. Ryan 2012 House Budget Resolution – The Path to Prosperity
  5. 2011 Continuing Resolution – Policy Riders
  6. Bipartisan “Gang of Six” Senators’ July 2011 Draft Plan
  7. Joint Economic Committee Republicans June, 2011 report – Maximizing America’s Prosperity: Lessons on Fiscal Rules from Other Developed Countries and U.S. States

Unfortunately, a number of recommendations proposed by these efforts would be very harmful to people with intellectual disabilities and their families, such as block granting Medicaid, reducing the federal matching rates for Medicaid services, using a different measure of inflation (the “chained consumer price index (CPI)”) to calculate cost of living adjustments for Social Security, and the repeal of the CLASS program.

Therefore, The Arc will continue to work diligently to ensure that these proposals are not included as part of Congress’ deficit reduction efforts.

Learn more about the Budget Control Act and how it may affect funding for disability-related programs at: http://www.thearc.org/page.aspx?pid=3286

Disability and aging advocates ask that HHS to be given time to develop CLASS program

The Urban Institute held a panel presentation on the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program and what can be done to “fix” it.  The CLASS Act was passed as part of the health care reform act to establish a voluntary long term services insurance plan to assist people to meet their needs without impoverishing themselves to qualify for Medicaid.  Marty Ford of the DPC was a member of the 6-person Urban Institute panel.  Ms. Ford made the point that the Secretary of Health and Human Services has been given the responsibility to develop a plan that is actuarially sound and that the Secretary should be given the time and resources she needs to develop the plan which will be offered to the public. A similar message was delivered by Rhonda Richards representing AARP. For more information, including the archived webcast, see http://www.urban.org/events/How-to-Fix-the-Class-Act.cfm

House holds hearing on CLASS; Repeal bill introduced

On March 17, the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing titled “The Implementation and Sustainability of the New, Government-Administered Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program.” Kathy Greenlee, the Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) testified along with other stakeholders. In nearly two hours of questioning by subcommittee members, Secretary Greenlee repeatedly explained that HHS was in the process of developing a specific premium and benefits package that would be sustainable without taxpayer funding, as required by Affordable Care Act. “We should not repeal CLASS until we have made every effort to reform the program,” she stated. There was a strong turnout by the disability and aging coalition organizations in support of CLASS, including The Arc and UCP. Later that afternoon, Representatives Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-LA), Phil Gingrey (R-GA), and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced a bill, H.R. 1173, to repeal the CLASS program. For more information on the CLASS program see http://www.advanceclass.org