Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District) on Wednesday helped the House pass legislation that would repeal a hugely expensive and unworkable program known as the CLASS Act, which was part of the 2010 federal health care law.
Gerlach voted in favor of H.R. 1173, the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act. The bill passed the House by a 267 to 159 vote with the support of 28 Democrats. It awaits action in the Senate.
"The House defused one of the many booby traps set in the President's health care law -- one that would have resulted in more expensive long-term care premiums for retirees, bigger burdens of debt for their grandchildren and job-crushing taxes for all Americans," Gerlach said. "The CLASS Act was not designed to meet the real needs of seniors. It was a scheme concocted by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama to hide from taxpayers the true cost of a colossal government-run health care program.
"By repealing this provision of the health-care law, we can begin working on affordable, long-term care solutions that will help seniors live independently and stay in their homes and communities. Solutions based on sound public policy rather than political agendas. The CLASS Act is a classic example of Washington passing legislation first and then trying to figure out whether it will really work and whether it is something we can really afford."
When the CLASS Act, which stands for the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, was enacted as part of the 2010 federal health care law, House Democratic leaders and the President said the government program would offer premiums of approximately $125 per month. However, two independent, actuarial studies commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the program would have to charge monthly premiums as high as $3,000 per month just to cover costs.
Some lawmakers from both parties realized the program was designed to fail from the start.
Sen. Kent Conrad, Democrat Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, called the CLASS Program "a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing Bernie Madoff would be proud of."
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified on Feb. 16, 2011 before the Senate Finance Committee. She told the Committee: "I would absolutely agree [CLASS] is totally unsustainable."
Finally, after two actuarial studies and months of failed attempts to salvage the program, Secretary Sebelius announced on Oct. 14 that she did not "see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time," effectively pulling the plug on the failed experiment.
Congressman Gerlach noted that Wednesday's vote in the House protects taxpayers against election-year gimmicks aimed at reviving an impractical program and guarantees the issue of long-term care will get a fresh start and fair debate.