Thursday, February 25, 2010

Republicans vs. Democrats on Costs

After opening statements, the first segment of today’s summit will focus on controlling health care costs.  Several points to keep in mind here:

  • During his presidential campaign, Senator Obama made as one of the focal points of his plan the promise that it would “save $2,500 annually for [the average] family” – a pledge the President has not reiterated recently.
  • The Congressional Budget Office found that in the individual market, the Senate bill – which the President endorsed – would raise individual premiums by an average of$2,100 per family.  Even in the employer-based market, CBO confirmed that the Senate/Obama plan would have virtually ZERO effect on reducing the continued skyrocketing growth in premiums, and may even result in slight increases – breaking President Obama’s campaign promise in either event.
  • The Obama Administration’s own actuaries have confirmed that the Senate bill, like the House bill, will RAISE overall health spending, not lower it – and the White House worsened this trend on Monday by proposing yet more new health care spending as part of its “compromise.”
  • Even Tom Daschle – the man President Obama wanted to nominate as his HHS Secretary – recently told the New York Times that the legislation being considered has cost containment provisions that “would be of ‘minimal value’ at the beginning.”
  • In terms of the overall spending in the bills, it’s important to recall that his health care campaign platform stated that “The Obama plan will cost between $50-65 billion a year when fully phased in.”  However, CBO scored the Obama/Senate plan as spending $199 billion on insurance subsidies in 2019 – and this total is BEFORE the increased spending in the proposals the White House unveiled earlier this week (and which have yet to be fully scored) are included.  If the cost of the Obama health plan has more than tripled in the 18 months between his presidential campaign and today, how much more will federal costs explode if and when the bill is actually enacted?
  • The President has previously stated potential support for containing costs on end-of-life spending by some form of rationed health care: “The chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here….There is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place.”  In addition, he has nominated advisors who have previously written that even though rationing health care “will in some cases lead to worse health for particular patients,” waiting lists are acceptable because “on average” patients will not suffer.  Moreover, HHS is currently appealing a lawsuit (Hays v. Sebelius) designed to give federal bureaucrats the authority to force beneficiaries to accept the cheapest medical alternative in government-run health plans.
  • By contrast to the President’s agenda that raises costs, Republicans have proposed multiple ideas that would reduce premium costs and health care spending.  Last year CBO confirmed that comprehensive medical liability reform would lower health care spending and while also reducing the federal deficit.  Yet Democrats refuse to include real tort reform in their bills, because as former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean publicly admitted, Democratic leaders “did not want to take on the trial lawyers.”  And President Obama himself opposed this reform when serving in the Senate, leading a filibuster on the issue.
  • Republicans also believe in promoting prevention and wellness.  For instance, firms like Safeway have kept their health costs relatively flat over the past four years through wellness incentives, even as premium costs have skyrocketed nationwide.  Expanding these incentives and encouraging more firms to utilize them could result in broader health care savings for all Americans.