The Washington Posts’ Jennifer Rubin is attributing the failure of the super committee to Democrats’ refusal to accept partial Medicare privatization and any cuts to the Affordable Care Act. It’s a meme first advanced by super committee co-chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and echoed by conservatives like James Capretta:
In this regard, nearly all of the mainstream reporting has taken for granted that ObamaCare is off limits from budget cutters. Reporters and the left punditocracy have declined to even recognize that the real “intransigence” was not on the part of Republicans (who offered up more revenue) but on the part of Democrats who insisted that ObamaCare remain pristine (despite the serial revelations that the plan is not unfolding as anticipated) and who refused respond with a serious counteroffer on tax reform.
The second issue revolves around Medicare. The Republicans last spring presented Rep. Paul Ryan’s premium support plan. Then in the supercommittee they offered the Rivlin-Domenici plan that would have allowed seniors to opt for traditional Medicare. But, as Capretta points out, the Democrats’ answer is to keep traditional Medicare and simply limit fees to providers, a recipe for shortages and denial of care.
First, it’s unclear why unwinding the Affordable Care Act — which reduces the deficit by billions of dollars — would make for good policy if you’re truly interesting in lowering the federal debt. That kind of thing would only be of use to partisans seeking to squash the President Obama’s signature accomplishment during an election year. Anyone truly interested in reducing health care spending should be looking for ways to ratchet up the cost savings already included in the law, rather than tear them down. (As is, the ACA is “projected to reduce aggregate spending by 6 percent over the 10 year period.”)
And as for the Medicare privatization plan, if Rubin or Capretta can explain how the ever-depreciating premium support proposal isn’t a cost shift to beneficiaries, I’d like to hear it. For the time being, Democrats — who themselves offered billions in Medicare and Medicaid cuts — are fighting with Republicans to preserve the sequestration process in the the Budget Control Act. The triggers will apply to any mandatory spending not specifically exempted, meaning that health reform provisions like grants to states for establishing exchanges, the public health prevention fund, and mandatory funding for community health centers could all be vulnerable to reductions. How is that for “off limits”?