Partisan Disagreement Mounts As Health Programs Are Considered By Debt Commission
This week's focus on the federal deficit -- at a fiscal summit that drew many major policy makers and at the opening of President Barack Obama's bipartisan debt-reduction commission -- has renewed interest in the economic effects of the new health care law, especially given Obama's remarks that everything, even that law, would be under consideration by the commission as it looks to cut the national debt.
The Dallas Morning News: "The dynamics of cutting the national debt shifted a bit Wednesday as Republicans welcomed President Barack Obama's offer to put the new health care law on the table in talks aimed at reducing federal budget deficits." In addition, at a conference on the deficit former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan called Obama's idea, "'startling' and a sign that the White House may be ready for big spending cuts." Peter Peterson, who hosted the meeting, "called health care spending 'the elephant in the room' for the nation's 'unsustainable' federal spending." The two political parties still seem to disagree on the overall financial impact of the health care law. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, said "the new health care law would 'hamstring' the group's ability to cut federal spending." But White House budget chief Peter Orszag noted the law would help lower health care costs in the future by moving away from "the quantity rather than the quality of care" (Landers, 4/29).
The Financial Times notes that it will be difficult to get a majority of support for any of the big changes under consideration. "Any attempt to reduce long-term deficits, which are driven principally by America's entitlement programmes, namely Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, would require Democrats and Republicans to climb down from long-cherished positions" (Luce, 4/28).
Reuters: Even Obama's announcement that the health care law would be among the programs considered by the debt commission came after partisan disagreements over whether it should be touched or not. "Republicans want the Democrats' recently approved healthcare overhaul to be on the table, questioning whether it would cut healthcare costs as advertised. 'When we say "everything is on the table," does that mean the new healthcare law?' asked Republican Representative Dave Camp. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said the commission was not the place to 'revisit the greatest hits of the healthcare debate' and that 'we need to get beyond' attacks on the new law." But co-chair of the commission Alan Simpson, said he believed Obama included the health care law in his admission that "everything is on the table," for consideration (Holland, 4/27).
The New York Times: Entitlement programs are some of the biggest costs faced by the government, but it is difficult to say which can be reformed to cut federal spending. "Social Security was a frequent target for those proposing areas for future deficit reductions, given that the rising costs of entitlement programs as the population ages are the biggest reason for the size of deficit forecasts. Medicare is a bigger problem, but the new health insurance law envisions spending reductions, although Mr. Obama told members of his fiscal commission that the law - like everything else in the federal budget - was on the table for their consideration He called fixing Social Security 'the most manageable' issue, compared with Medicare and Medicaid, whose financial woes are entwined with the complexities and fast-rising costs in the health care system generally" (Calmes, 4/28).