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House committee kills long-term care provision of health reform law

House committee kills long-term care provision of health reform law

WASHINGTON—The House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday voted to kill a health care reform law provision that would set up a voluntary long-term care program.

In October, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration suspended implementation of the program, saying that because of its voluntary nature, the LTC program would have been unworkable.

Ms. Sebelius, though, lacked the authority to formally kill the program, prompting lawmakers to act. The measure, H.R. 1173, approved by the Ways and Means Committee on a 23-13 vote, would repeal the program.

“Today we have taken steps to repeal yet another poorly designed and unworkable piece” of the health care reform law, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in statement.

Under the program, participants would have paid a monthly premium for five years, after which they would have become eligible for a cash benefit of at least $50 a day that could be used to offset the cost of long-term care services. The program was supposed to have started this year.

The law directed the HHS secretary to establish automatic enrollment procedures that employers could have used and that employees would have had to opt out of if they didn't want to participate.

Because the program was voluntary, critics say it would have resulted in adverse selection, a point Ms. Sebelius has conceded.

“This could have led to a vicious cycle where premiums would have to be set higher and higher to cover the likely costs of the benefits, leading fewer and fewer healthier people to sign up for the program,” she said.

The measure now goes to the House floor.

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