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Obama Admin Flip-Flops on CLASS Act

Last Friday, the Obama administration quietly announced it was suspending progress on the CLASS Act, an unsustainable long-term care insurance program that was supposed to help offset the cost of Obamacare. But now that the CBO and House GOP are readying for the program’s presumable repeal, the Obama administration is balking:

President Obama is against repealing the health law’s long-term care CLASS Act and might veto Republican efforts to do so, an administration official tells The Hill, despite the government’s announcement Friday that the program was dead in the water.

“We do not support repeal,” the official said Monday. “Repealing the CLASS Act isn’t necessary or productive. What we should be doing is working together to address the long-term care challenges we face in this country.”

And just for a refresher, here’s the announcement Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee gave last Friday:

“We won’t be working further to implement the CLASS Act … We don’t see a path forward to be able to do that,” Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee told reporters on Friday.

It’s kind of hard to reconcile that statement with today’s “we do not support repeal” line. Both supporters and opponents of the CLASS Act are downright baffled, reports the AP.

The Obama administration obviously doesn’t want to be seen as endorsing the CLASS Act repeal, especially since it sounds like it’s getting serious pushback from its base over the suspension. But HHS didn’t have much choice in the matter. There was literally no way to defend the reality-suspending economics of the CLASS Act, an opt-in program to insure the long-term ill and disabled. It’s only sustainable if everybody who takes benefits from the program chooses to opt-in long before they become sick, injured or elderly.

UPDATE. A GOP aide emails, speculating that this is a way for Obama to avoid admitting defeat:

“It’s understandable why President Obama wouldn’t want repeal of his signature health care reform bill.  Even his own Health and Human Services’ Secretary has now rejected part of Obamacare. Instead of repealing this fiscally disastrous bill, the president would rather have it languish on the books, so he doesn’t have to admit defeat.”

A fair point, considering that Democrats have staked quite a bit of reputation on the Class ACT. For a particularly timely example of this, go read Phil Klein, who dug up a 2009 video clip of Harry Reid promising that the program was “fully paid for…decades and decades into the future.” What a difference two years can make.