On August 6th, Michigan resident Mike Sola confronted Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) at a health care townhall about H.R. 3200’s effect on his son Scott. It is unclear from the exchange if Scott, who is confined to a wheelchair and has cerebral palsy, is enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid. But Rep. Dingell did follow up Mr. Sola’s questions with a letter dated August 11th. Unfortunately the letter is non-responsive to Mr. Sola’s concerns. Here is what Dingell wrote:

In our exchange, I mentioned an amendment that I offered that would help disabled Americans, like your son, Scott. That amendment is the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, which would create a new, voluntary national insurance program for adults who become functionally disabled. This legislation will preserve the dignity of people who, despite their functional impairments, wish to continue living the American Dream – working, supporting their families, and living at home. This amendment, which I cosponsored with Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), passed by voice vote on day three of the healthcare markup.

Should you have specific questions about how the plan would affect you and your son, please do not hesitate to contact my office with those questions. We are happy to help explain how this bill might affect any Medicare or Medicaid benefits your son is entitled to and likely receiving.

There are three problems with this response:
1. Dingell’s letter assumes that Scott Sola is enrolled in Medicare. This makes Dingell’s response incomprehensible since people currently on Medicare, or Medicaid, are not eligible for CLASS Act … and Dingell should know this because it is his legislation!
2. If Scott is on Medicare, Mr. Dingell failed to mention the $50 billion in cuts to home health services under Medicare.
3. If Scott is eligible for the CLASS Act, he will have to pay premiums for a minimum of 5 years before he is eligible for a dime of benefits. But the program, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is already unsustainable. HR 3200, therefore, empowers Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to increase premiums or lower benefits in order for the program to remain solvent.

Bottom line: The federal government and the states cannot meet the promises to current Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Adding more people to Medicaid is like putting more people into a leaking boat.

This one event is a prime illustration of why the critical and legitimate questions raised by the legislation must be addressed rather than dismissed. If the proponents cannot give complete and accurate explanations about the legislation, it proves the rush to get the bills out of Committee before the August recess was ill-advised.