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LTC measure to get vote on repeal in House

LTC measure to get vote on repeal in House

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House of Representatives this week will vote on legislation that would kill a health care reform law provision to establish a voluntary long-term care program, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

“We will repeal the CLASS Act,” Speaker Boehner said during an address last week before the National Assn. of Health Underwriters conference in Washington.

CLASS is the acronym for the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, which was incorporated in the 2010 health care reform law.

“Let's get it off the books,” Speaker Boehner said of the program.

This month, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill, H.R. 1173, to kill the program, implementation of which the Obama administration suspended in October on grounds of being unworkable.

Administration officials said the program would have been unworkable because of its voluntary nature, with massive adverse selection that would have sent LTC premiums spiraling.

Speaker Boehner did not address the bill's prospects of passage in the Senate. But benefits experts say the repeal bill would have an uphill battle winning approval in the Senate, where Democrats are in the majority.

Some Democrats “don't want to be on an anti-Affordable Care Act bandwagon,” said Gretchen Young, senior vp-health policy with the ERISA Industry Committee in Washington.

Business groups have opposed the program due to fears that it could, if implemented, lead to a taxpayer bailout.

“It would not have been financially viable. It would have been quintessential adverse selection. The design made no sense,” said National Business Group on Health President and CEO Helen Darling in Washington.

“The program could have become a big sinkhole,” Ms. Young said.

Turning to the health care reform law, which he strongly opposes, Speaker Boehner said its costs ultimately will bankrupt the country.

“It will ruin” what has been the world's best health care system, he said.

He said the law is transferring to government from consumers health care coverage decisions.

As an example, he cited a requirement, which was finalized this month by the Department of Health and Human Services, that will force many health care plan sponsors—including those opposed for religious reasons—to offer coverage for contraceptives. He did not address, though, whether he would try to block enforcement of the contraceptive mandate.

In 2011, Congress—without administration objections—repealed two health care reform law provisions. One provision would have required employers to offer lower-paid employees company-paid vouchers to purchase coverage in state health insurance exchanges if their required premium contribution toward employer coverage exceeded a certain percentage of their income.

The other repealed a provision that would have required employers to distribute Form 1099 statements to any vendor with which it did at least $600 in business.