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Truth Squad: Did the Obama administration try to repeal part of own health care plan?

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:14 AM EDT, Wed October 19, 2011

(CNN) -- At Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann suggested that opposition to President Obama's health reform law prompted the administration to repeal part of it.

The Statement: "Obama-care is so flat-out unpopular that even the Obama administration chose to reject part of Obamacare last Friday when they tried to throw out the CLASS Act, which is the long-term care function. The Secretary Sebelius, who is the head of Health and Human services, reported that the government can't even afford that part and has to throw it out. And now the administration is arguing with itself. When even the Obama administration wants to repeal this bill, I think we're going to win this thing. We're going to repeal it. And I will. "Obamacare is so unpopular even the Obama administration wants to repeal part of it..." --- Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota)

The Facts: In reference to Bachmann's assertion about the unpopularity of the health care reform law, a CNN/ORC poll conducted in June shows 56 percent of Americans oppose it, while 39 percent favor it. Those numbers are similar to several other CNN/ORC polls going back to March 2010, when the plan first passed. Polls from other organizations generally agree.

Her comment about the Obama administration wanting to "repeal" part of the plan refers to last week's announcement that the administration was suspending the long-term care insurance program that was part of the law passed in 2010, because it was not financially sustainable.

The program, called the CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports) Act, was similar to long-term care plans available in the private sector in which workers sign up and pay a monthly premium. It was voluntary and was to be paid for entirely by the premiums from those who signed up. In return, subscribers would get a daily benefit. But a senior administration official told CNN that there were big questions whether CLASS could be self-sustaining even when the health care reform law was being considered by Congress. And as a result, lawmakers specified that the HHS secretary had to determine that the program would be sustainable for 75 years before certifying it.

After a 19-month effort to find a way to make it financially viable, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to Congress last week stating, "Despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time." And in a blog entry on Healthcare.gov, Sebelius cited warnings that not enough young healthy people would sign up. "This could have led to a vicious cycle where premiums would have to be set higher and higher to cover the likely costs of benefits, leading fewer and fewer healthier people to sign up for the program," she wrote.

The legislation had been championed by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts. Congressional Republicans had long targeted the program as part of their effort to repeal President Barack Obama's health care reform law. While Congressional Republicans had long targeted the program as part of their effort to repeal President Barack Obama's health care reform law, Secretary Sebelius halted it only after an exhaustive effort to save it. The administration had no desire to "repeal" the program (and certainly has no intention of repealing the entire law) and Sebelius vowed not to give up on the "ultimate goal of making sure Americans can get the long-term care they need."

The Verdict: Misleading

CNN's Chris Mould and Scott Spoerry

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