In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the United States 37th in health care out of 191 countries. Nevertheless, in December, President Bush proclaimed that “we have fabulous health care” compared to “other systems around the world.”
Today, OMB Director Jim Nussle echoed Bush’s inaccurate claim while explaining Bush’s new budget. Despite almost $200 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts over the next five years, Nussle alleged the United States still has the “best” health care:
So beneficiaries, I don’t think, will see the differences. … We have the best health care in the world. And our seniors especially get great health care. And that will not be affected by this small drop in percentage increases over the next five years.
In reality, Bush’s harsh budget cuts will make the dismal state of U.S. health care even worse.
The budget cuts Medicaid by $18.2 billion over five years, essentially “shifting costs to the states” and forcing “states to institute even bigger program cuts or tax increases,” according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). On Medicare, Nussle claimed that “access and quality should not suffer at all.” But as CBPP noted:
Many of the proposed cuts go well beyond the reductions that MedPAC, Congress’ expert advisory commission on Medicare payments, recommended and considers safe. These reductions could drive some health care providers to limit the number of Medicare patients they see or drop out of the program entirely. That, in turn, would jeopardize health care for significant numbers of people who are elderly or have serious disabilities.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) noted the irony of preserving Bush’s tax cuts “at a cost of $2.2 trillion” while proposing hundreds of billions in health care cuts. “We believe that is a very odd sense of priorities. That is not a sense of priorities that are shared by the American people,” Conrad said.