Inside Health Policy’s Sahil Kapur reports that Republicans on the Super Committee continue to insist on lowering the health spending by increasing it — that is, repealing the one law that will not only reduce the deficit over 10 years, but also slow the rate of growth in national health expenditures. From yesterday’s inaugural meeting of the committee:
House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-WI) floated two specific proposals: reforming medical malpractice laws and cutting some spending from the Affordable Care Act.
“We can eliminate nearly $60 billion in federal spending by reforming our broken medical liability system and we can save tens of billions more by simply wiping out some of the unaccountable spending in the health care law,” Upton said in his opening statement.
House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), who kicked off the hearing, said he believes the Medicare, Medicaid and health spending are the “biggest drivers of the debt.”
Again, Republicans aren’t wrong to argue that Medicare spending — all of health care spending — must be contained if we want to strengthen the economy, but the way to do that is to bolster the cost containment provisions in the Affordable Care Act, not repeal them. There is certainly some middle ground to be found on reducing malpractice costs (although those savings are relatively modest), but the real compromise has to come from expanding the bipartisan cost containment provisions already in the law.
After all, both Republicans and Democrats support the excise tax (Republicans wanted to do away with the entire employer health subsidy, while the ACA only eliminates the tax break for high-cost plans), a cost containment commission (the GOP calls the IPAB rationing, but Paul Ryan proposed very similar boards in his health bills), and delivery system reform (here is Newt Gingrich praising the efficiency improvements of CMS administrator Don Berwick). But Republicans are now seeking to repeal these measures because 1) they’re part of a Democratic bill signed by President Obama and 2) the current crop of Republicans is really more interested in privatizing the entire health care system — which would actually INCREASE health care spending — than they are in lowering health expenditures.