Republican Representative Paul Ryan's sharp talk on budget gimmicks became the conservative favorite of today's health care summit. The speech was both partisan and acerbic. Though left-leaning writers such as Jonathan Chait ultimately rejected his views, he won points for being more "substantive" than his colleagues. Here's what the Wisconsin Republican said:
We all agree that health inflation is driving us off a fiscal cliff. The President has said health care reform is budget reform. You’re right ... Mr. President, you’re right to frame the debate on cost--and health inflation’s threat to our fiscal future.
The bill is full of gimmicks that more than erase the false claim of deficit reduction:
$52 billion of savings is claimed by counting increased Social Security payroll revenues. These dollars are already claimed for future Social Security beneficiaries, and claiming to offset the cost of this bill either means we’re double-counting or we’re not going to pay Social Security benefits.$72 billion in savings is claimed from the CLASS Act--long-term care insurance. These so-called savings are not offsets, but rather premiums collected to pay for future benefits. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad has called these savings “a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud.”
Additionally, the nearly half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts cannot be counted twice. Medicare is in dire need of reform in order to make certain that we can ensure health security for future seniors.
On Cost Control
The most damaging assessment is from the Medicare’s chief actuary, showing the bill ultimately increases national health spending by $222 billion above current estimates, putting us on a trajectory even more unsustainable than the path we’re currently on.
Does this legislative effort bend the health care cost curve?
It does--but in the wrong direction. It bends the cost curve up, not down.
Essentially, this bill chases ever higher spending with ever higher taxes. The taxes never catch up, resulting in ever higher deficits.
On the Way Forward
Let’s scrap this bill and start over. Let’s fix what’s broken, without breaking what’s working. Let’s focus on step-by-step, common-sense reforms that lower health care costs. That’s what the American people want us to do, and we should start anew today.