The congressional super committee — the select panel charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in federal budget savings before Thanksgiving — faces a very difficult task under a tight deadline. The 12-member panel, which was created in August as part of the congressional agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, will consider all parts of the federal budget as it attempts to craft recommendations that will achieve this savings target. Medicare and Medicaid are certainly part of their calculations. If they don’t succeed, and/or Congress doesn’t approve of the plan, automatic cuts will kick in.
Kaiser Health News asked Henry J. Aaron of The Brookings Institution, Nina Owcharenko from The Heritage Foundation and Third Way’s David Kendall what they view as the most substantive issue or challenge facing this panel, and what advice they might offer — specifically in regard to health care entitlement programs — to tackle it.
Henry J. Aaron writes that, although numerous, very pressing health policy issues are currently in play, health policy analysts are at risk of “neglecting the single policy debate that will more profoundly influence health policy than all of those now absorbing their attention: whether tax increases form a major part of any program to curb future federal budget deficits.” Read the column.
According to Nina Owcharenko, “[i]f the goal is producing $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in 10-year savings, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction must think big and produce recommendations with real substance. Nothing could be truer than dealing with the health care savings component. … They should make measurable progress in restructuring the health care system toward a sustainable, consumer-based model — not just meet a fiscal target and call it reform.” Read the column.
David Kendall writes: “The rising cost of health care is squeezing the federal budget, making it a common enemy. For Republicans, spiraling costs have placed them in the increasingly untenable position of proposing steep Medicare cuts in order to avoid tax increases in their budget proposals. Democrats are looking at a budget where health care spending crowds out other progressive priorities such as education, housing and public investments in general. In the comics, super heroes and their rivals occasionally enter an uneasy alliance against a common enemy. In the face of a looming fiscal crisis, can the two parties use the super committee to follow suit?” Read the column.