A new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report has sparked a renewed wave of attacks and defenses of Democrats’ plans to overhaul the health care system. The report found the House-passed health bill would increase health costs by $289 billion over 10 years and could cause reduced access to services for Medicare beneficiaries. As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein says, like much in politics, “What they found depends on who you ask,” though he acknowledges “the report may prove very important in the coming negotiations between the House and the Senate.”
Heritage’s Conn Carroll says the report “blows the lid off of every one of Obama’s claims” about the health bill, and calls it a “deathblow for Obamacare.”
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey writes, “In other words, the warnings about the Canadianization of the American health-care system have proven correct, especially as far as Medicare enrollees are concerned. We already have a crisis in providers for the government-run network. Thanks to unrealistic compensation schedules, many providers have stopped taking new Medicare patients, forcing them to fewer providers and into longer waits for care. The CMMS [sic] study shows that the massive cuts proposed by the Pelosi plan in the House and the Reid plan coming to the Senate floor would — not surprisingly — make a bad situation worse.”
Michelle Malkin reacts, “Ho-hum. Nothing to see here except another massive act of generational theft.”
Reason’s Peter Suderman on CMS’s estimate of the Medicare cuts: “Now, I think we ought to resist the idea that Medicare should be untouchable, and I think Republicans (who ordered the report, presumably expecting to find this outcome) have done themselves a disservice by pushing that notion. But I also think it’s pretty disingenuous to sell a plan based on the idea that you can make massive cuts to the program without substantially altering or reducing benefits in ways that beneficiaries won’t like.”
Meanwhile, over on the left…
Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum argues that the report itself is pessimistic:
What CMS is saying is that the healthcare sector tends to be labor intensive, and thus won’t be able to improve its efficiency as rapidly as the broader economy. Which might be true. Still, it’s worth noting that this is basically a counsel of despair. It suggests that controlling the growth of healthcare spending is hopeless, and any attempt to try it won’t work. We’re just going to have to pay doctors and hospitals as much as they want. I don’t buy that. It’s plain that eventually we’re going to have to control healthcare spending one way or another, and the sooner we give it a serious try the better.
Wonk Room’s Igor Volksy thinks the report is a “wake-up call to for reformers as much as it is a full and complete rejection of critics who argue that the House bill will undermine the existing health care system.” He writes, “The report is not without its positives, and lawmakers must accept the bad with the good. If the CMS analysis suggests that reform legislation should adopt robust cost-containment provisions, it also applauds the bill for expanding coverage by building and strengthening the current public/private system.”
Lastly, more from Ezra Klein, who recommends next steps for Democrats:
It seems like the smart path forward is to give these cuts a credible shot, and if they don’t work, either ease the cuts or reform Medicare to save money in other ways, perhaps by going after fee-for-service more aggressively.
But Medicare cuts are a crude tool. The more damning conclusion from the CMS report is that the House bill has little else to control costs, and that’s largely accurate. This report shouldn’t lead reformers to abandon efforts to trim Medicare, but it should convince them that the bill can do more on the cost control front.
The Senate now has the advantage of reading this report, questioning CMS about its methodologies and tweaking its bill to ensure a better verdict. But it’s already part of the way there. The Senate Finance Committee’s bill has two cost-control measures the House … doesn’t: Super MedPac and the excise tax. Alongside that, it has a much more aggressive package of delivery-system reforms.