WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to repeal a provision of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul setting up a home-care program for the elderly and disabled that regulators said was unworkable.
The Republican-led House voted 267-159 for the bill that would terminate the Community Living Assistance Services(CLASS) Act that was supposed to create a voluntary insurance program to help the elderly and disabled pay for home care.
Republicans called it a step toward achieving their goal of dismantling the healthcare overhaul Obama signed into law nearly two years ago.
The legislation is not expected to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate even though Republicans are expected to push for a vote on it.
“There is no doubt that the president’s healthcare plan is killing jobs,” said Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling. “House Republicans have repealed it in its totality. It has been blocked by the president, by Democrats and so if we can’t do it in its totality we’ll do it piecemeal. We need to start out by repealing the CLASS Act.”
Democrats opposed to scrapping the program acknowledged that it had a flawed design, but they argued it should be fixed rather than repealed so millions of elderly and disabled people could receive help at home rather than be placed in usually more expensive institutional care.
“You stand there with no alternative whatsoever,” Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell shouted at Republicans on the House floor. “Millions of people out there are suffering. Where is your heart ... you have no heart.”
The Health and Human Services Department last October pulled the plug on the program after officials determined they could not come up with a model that would keep it voluntary and solvent without adding to long-term U.S. budget burdens.
The law calls for workers to begin voluntarily enrolling in the program later this year. Participants would have paid monthly fees for at least five years before qualifying for benefits.
The Congressional Budget Office saw the program raising money in the short run, but adding to long-term budget imbalances in a few decades as the program began paying out more in benefits than it collected in premiums.
Reporting By Donna Smith; Editing by Eric Walsh