Yes, the CLASS program is a narrow feature of Obamacare that most Americans knew nothing about.
But scrapping the program validates some of the central critiques of health care reform – that it is overly complex, is unsustainable financially, and is too experimental and bureaucratic. And none this is hindsight – it is exactly what critics of the law argued would happen if the White House insisted on a systems overhaul of health are rather than a targeted attack on pre-existing illness exclusions and a federally-funded expansion of Medicaid.
The travails of the CLASS program also illustrate the degree to which congressional Democrats and private sector interests inserted a backlog of frustrated policy goals into the fine print of “Obamacare.” Hill staffers who were distrustful of the efficacy of the private insurance market fixated on CLASS as an eventual wedge into a “public option”, and in private meetings made no bones about their thinking.
At the same time, faced with the prospect of covering larger numbers of un-healthy customers who will pay out much less than they receive in benefits, the insurance industry tacked on its own bells and whistles – including an expansion of the prescription drug benefit and consumer and business mandates aimed at pulling larger numbers of high premium beneficiaries into the coverage pool.
The result was a safety net plan that got swollen into an unwieldy “wish list”. Frankly, the administration was too thrilled with building a broad coalition, and claiming credit for a landmark, transformative law, to stop the floodgates.