CLASS Act Repeal Passes House

Last week the House voted to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program (CLASS Act).  Created by the 2010 health reform law, CLASS was designed as a voluntary long-term care insurance program to give people who pay into it protection against the costs of disability. Since its inception, the legislation has been widely criticized as financially unsustainable.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), said in a statement after the vote, “The president’s health care law is making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers and provide insurance for their employees, and Republicans are committed to repealing and defunding it – piece by piece if necessary.”

The legislation is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, however, despite assertions from the Obama administration and a letter to Congress from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius indicating that the program was “not viable.”

Twenty-eight Democrats joined the unanimous Republican effort in the 267-159 vote passing H.R. 1173.

Conferees Discuss SGR

The conference committee on H.R. 3630, the Middle Class Tax Cut Act of 2011, met again last Wednesday to discuss possibilities for funding the SGR.  The Committee is tasked with resolving differences between the House passed bill and the Senate Amendment to the bill.

Several conferees suggested using un-spent defense funds, but it was ultimately determined by conference Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) that such funding would be outside the scope of the conference.

Other suggestions for funding included:

  • Closing of corporate tax  loopholes
  • Cutting tax breaks for oil companies
  • Increased taxes for those with annual income > 1 million

After the conference, Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) said he is not ready to discuss SGR offsets, but he added that he is open to all ideas.  He went on to say that the doctors’ caucus has been discussing the issue but indicated that it is only one of many issues with which the caucus is dealing.

Although all the conferees appear to agree that the SGR should be replaced or at least patched, hopefully for two years, there is less agreement on Medicare extenders; the Senate bill included 10 extenders, and the House bill included five.

In order to seek a long-term fix, the Committee, who will meet three times this week, is likely to request an  extension of the February 29th deadline, at which point physicians will face a 27 % cut to payment rates.

advocacy chairman john finkenberg, md meets with rep davis

Dr. Finkenberg met with Congresswoman Susan Davis,  sharing that, “she seems to be in agreement on many of our issues and was happy to hear the stories I conveyed to her about how I think Specialists can actually save our Healthcare system money in the future.”

nass staff attends meeting with senior energy & commerce advisor

NASS staff joined several other representatives from the Alliance of Specialty Medicine in meeting with John S. O’Shea, MD, MPA, Senior Health Policy Advisor to the Committee on Energy and Commerce to discuss SGR alternatives and future models for measuring outcomes, quality, and value.

NASS is working with the Alliance to schedule a briefing to address these issues in the coming months.