Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lower costs? Forget it.

"The nation's health care tab will go up — not down — as a result of President Barack Obama's sweeping overhaul."

–Associated Press, Sept. 9, 2010

That verdict on the cost of the new health legislation was the conclusion of a government forecast released this month. Well, duh. You can't expand coverage by 32 million Americans and figure that will hold costs down. The Democrats sold health care to Americans with a lot of fuzzy accounting and shaky assertions about how relatively inexpensive all this would be.

No wonder at least 34 House Democrats are campaigning on health care reform — not extolling their grand accomplishment but touting their "no" votes, as Politico recently reported. In fact, Democratic candidates are spending more than $3 deriding the new health law for every $1 their fellow Dems are spending to brag about it.

A trio of Democratic pollsters recently advised Democrats to stop saying the big health care reform law passed last spring will reduce costs and curb a raging federal deficit. What the Dems should say, the pollsters suggested: "The law is not perfect … now we'll work to improve it."

The law does need to be "improved," if by improved, you mean profoundly scaled back in expense and complexity.

There are some good ideas in Congress about how to do that. There's a smart but so far unsuccessful move to change or repeal a tax reporting provision that would be onerous for small businesses.

And there's a proposal to deep-six a panel that most Americans never heard about and that hasn't even been formed yet. It's called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The board of experts is supposed to have broad powers to cut Medicare spending if Congress doesn't have the gumption to do so. Scratch that. Make it when Congress doesn't have the gumption to do so.

Sen. John Cornyn wants to abolish the panel before its members are even appointed. "America's seniors deserve the ability to hold elected officials accountable for the decisions that affect their Medicare, but IPAB would take that away from seniors and put power in the hands of politically appointed Washington bureaucrats," the Texas Republican said in a statement.