Editorial Round-Up: CLASS Act Suspension

Newspapers nationwide responded to the Obama administration's decision to suspend the implementation of a long-term care insurance program.
by | October 19, 2011

There were few tears shed on the editorial pages of the nation's newspapers after U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathy Sebelius announced last week that a part of the Affordable Care Act that would establish a long-term care insurance program would be suspended indefinitely.

The program, dubbed the CLASS Act, was deemed fiscally unsustainable, according to analysis by Sebelius's department. Since the announcement, editorial boards have largely concurred with the Obama administration's decision.

The New York Times wrote that the administration "was wise" to halt implementation of the program. The program addresses an important concern about rising costs of long-term care, but its structure was imperfect. The Times rebuffed the supposed political victory that many Republicans had claimed.

"Don't be misled by Republican war whoops proclaiming the demise of this single program as proof that reform is doomed and ought to be repealed," the editorial says. "The decision shows a welcome flexibility by the White House that bodes well for carrying out all provisions of the reform law."

"Sometimes a quick death is the best way," the Washington Post's editorial read. It followed the Times's line of reasoning: the program was imperfect and should not have been implemented as planned. However, "the CLASS Act may be gone, but the problem remains," the Post says. The newspaper also rebuked Republicans who claimed that this failure indicated a larger problem with the Affordable Care Act.

The San Francisco Examiner, though, presumed to do exactly that. The CLASS Act, according to the editorial board, was "little more than an accounting fiction designed to conceal the actual cost of health care reform." The Examiner also criticized Obama's hesitation to repeal the program altogether. But its big question was: "How many other false claims are still to be found in Obamacare?"

The Boston Herald joined that chorus, saying that the CLASS Act's fiscal issues were evident from the start. The Congressional Budget Office has reported there would be no financial impact for repealing the program, the editorial says, so the decision should be an easy one.

"Only in Washington, after all, could a brand-new entitlement -- affordable coverage for long-term care of the elderly and disabled -- be projected to reduce the deficit," the Herald wrote. "But that is precisely the fiscal house of cards upon which the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act was built."

On the other end of the spectrum, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune simply wondered: "If this program won't work, what will?" The newspaper scolded Republican legislators for playing the political card and calling the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. Instead, they should be exploring how to handle this problem the CLASS Act at least attempted to address.

"The combination of soaring health care spending, grave budgetary challenges and the tsunami of graying baby boomers demands thoughtful policy proposals," its editorial said. "Finding solutions ought to be the focus."

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