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Curtains for the CLASS Act?

Remember this congressional working group report from last week, which showed administration staffers were privately raising alarm bells about what a train wreck the CLASS Act was before it passed? Well apparently it hit a nerve with the administration. According to reports, the head actuary of the CLASS Act’s Washington office was abruptly terminated today, and the entire program may be headed for an early grave:

Amid mounting concerns about its fiscal sustainability, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday said they may not go forward with the program. …

The disclosure came after the office in charge of the initiative terminated its chief actuary, Bob Yee. In an interview, Mr. Yee said the office was being disbanded effective Friday.

The Health and Human Services Department denied the office was closing and said the analysis of the program would continue as planned. But that analysis has been going on for 17 months now, and so far it hasn’t produced reforms to make the program sustainable for the long-term. Where does it go from here, especially with a reduced staff?

Rep. Darrell Issa and a group of 12 Republicans in the House and Senate are trying to find out. They sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today, asking for details on the office closing and her own involvement with the program. Sebelius recently publicly acknowledged the sustainability problems with the CLASS Act, but the lawmakers want to know when she first became aware of this. Read the full letter here.

“Accountability goes to the top. Lawmakers and the American people deserve to know when internal concerns over CLASS were first communicated to Secretary Sebelius and what, if any, actions she took to address them,” wrote Sen. Jeff Sessions, who signed onto the letter, in a statement.

There’s also a crucial reason why the administration might be hesitant to nix the CLASS Act, despite concerns over its sustainability. As Sarah Kliff reports, the program accounts for half of the “savings” the CBO said Obamacare would produce over the next decade (I put savings in quotes because the CBO’s math has been widely disputed here). The president argued we needed to institute health care reform in order to cut costs, but that line of reasoning is destroyed if $70 billion in these so-called savings go out the window along with the CLASS Act.


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