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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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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks at a news briefing at the White House in June. HHS announced that it is suspending the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports a component of the health-care legislation designed to help disabled and elderly people receive care at home.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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The Obama administration is pulling the plug on a long-term, home-care program included in the 2010 healthcare reform law that Republicans have derided as a budget trick.

U.S. health officials said on Friday that after 19 months of analysis, they could not come up with a model for the so-called CLASS Act that keeps it voluntary and budget-neutral.

"We do not have a path to move forward," Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary of aging from the Health and Human Services department and administrator of the program, said in a call with reporters.

"Everything we do to make the program more (financially) sound moves us away from the law, and increases the legal risk of the program."

The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program was designed to give the disabled and elderly cash to receive care at home instead of usually more expensive institutional care.

Under the law, workers would have begun enrolling in the program after October of 2012, after the HHS set the program's benefits. The program was to have been voluntary, with participants required to pay into it for at least five years before qualifying for benefits.

The Congressional Budget Office had estimated the program would reduce the federal deficit by $70 billion in the program's first decade.

However, the CBO also said the program would start to lose money after the first decade or two, once benefit payments exceeded income from premiums.
Republicans, many of whom are eager to repeal Obama's healthcare reform, have criticized the CLASS Act as a way to trump up the cost savings of the Affordable Care Act.

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