GrassleyWatch: What Does He Not Understand About ‘Fully Paid For’?


Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the so-called bipartisan ‘Gang of Six’ negotiations — joined the growing chorus of Republican lawmakers who are using the adjusted deficit numbers to argue for a smaller health reform package:

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, one of three Senate Republicans negotiating on health care, said the soaring federal budget deficit “puts a stake in the heart” of $1 trillion measures being debated in Congress….“It’s going to have a big impact on whether I’ll even support something,” he said at a town-hall meeting yesterday in Le Mars, Iowa….Still, he said, a forecast by the Congressional Budget Office that deficits between 2010 and 2019 will total $7.1 trillion calls for a more-limited measure than the $900 billion bill the bipartisan group was discussing last month. “We’re going to be looking at smaller numbers,” he said. The deficit projection also dooms $1 trillion measures already moving through the House and approved by the Senate health committee, Grassley said.

Grassley’s suggestion that health care reform would grow the deficit demonstrates that the Senator is either misinformed or deliberately manufacturing reasons to oppose health care reform. The budget framework requires a deficit-neutral health care reform bill, and the Democrats have pledged to fully finance coverage expansion from savings within the system and new sources of revenue.

Secondly, health care is the economy; health care is the deficit. Health care costs are the long-term driving force in federal and state budgets and represent the single most important factor “influencing the Federal Government’s long-term fiscal balance.” The Democrats’ health care reform will help re-orient the system from spending 80% of its dollars treating chronic illnesses into a system prevents the chronic conditions from developing in the first place. It will begin to change the way providers are paid so that we are rewarding quality care and not just quantity care.

In other words, in order to transform America’s expensive patchwork health care system into a system that covers everyone and reduces health care spending by successfully preventing and managing chronic conditions, Congress will have to invest a significant amount into reform. If done right, that investment can place the system and the nation on a firm fiscal footing and save millions of middle class families from catastrophic increases in health care costs. As Tim Fernholz points out, “health-care reform will lead to increases in GDP, reaching over 2 percent in 2020 that would lead to proportional increases in tax revenue and lower deficits. But most important, eliminating the “crazy system of cross-subsidies,” as Center for Budget and Policy Priorities economist Jim Horney calls the complex interweaving of publicly and privately subsidized care for the under- and uninsured, would create a much simpler framework for future cost-reduction efforts.”

The Wonk Room has compiled a list of Grassley’s most egregious misrepresentations and will continue monitoring and fact checking Grassley’s statements throughout the reform process. Read the full document HERE.