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Government suspends home-care provision of health-care reform law

The CLASS act, a provision in the heath-care reform law designed to help the disabled and elderly cash to receive care at home, could not be both voluntary and budget-neutral, say health officials.

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Not adding up

In September, Republicans in Congress posted emails that showed government actuaries were already questioning CLASS, even before the program became part of the Affordable Care Act.

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The Republican Policy Committee also posted a September email from Bob Yee, an HHS actuary who said he was hired to run the program, saying he was leaving his position and the CLASS office would be closing.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in February acknowledged the agency was struggling to make the program self-sustainable in the long run.
On Friday, Greenlee said the law specifically allowed the program to be suspended if the HHS could not prove it was financially sound for 75 years.

"Because of the tremendous uncertainty that surrounded the program from its inception, it had this provision that the (HHS) Secretary had to satisfy solvency, and we could not proceed otherwise," she said.

Some Democrats on Friday urged the HHS to not be so quick in giving up on the program.

Congressman Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey who co-authored the program along with the late Senator Edward Kennedy, said seniors and the disabled who need home care would only have Medicaid to fall back on if the program were repealed.

"If the program needs improving, then let's find the way to do it," he said in a statement.

"While we are fighting so hard against Republican attempts to cut Medicaid ... abandoning the CLASS Act is the wrong decision. Soon enough, those in need will have nowhere to go for long term care."

According to the AARP, a nonprofit group that represents those over 50 years of age, 70 percent of people age 65 and over will need long-term care services at some point in their lifetime, and Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled, does not cover such care.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov and Donna Smith and Tom Ferraro; Editing by Gary Hill and Carol Bishopric)

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