Max Baucus’ Revenge

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"Max Baucus’ Revenge"

I think that’s the right way to think of Doug Elmendorf’s damaging testimony about how the HELP and House health reform bills would fail to achieve the goal of “bending the curve” on health spending. Lately some of Baucus’ key ideas have been getting sidelined and Elmendorf’s words will now help Baucus, the Finance Committee, and taxing health benefits all get back in the game.

Meanwhile, it would be nice if the Washington Post’s reporters would take their blogger’s advice about this:

I would also like to propose a related rule: any reporters who receive a quote from a politician on this CBO score should be required to ask the politician which of these policies — or which alternative cost-saving policies — they support. And that should be on the record. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize health-care reform for not saving enough money. But it’s not legitimate to do that if you also oppose any and all measures for saving money.

Here’s some good ideas from CAP colleagues:

— David Cutler and Judy Feder “Financing Health Care Reform”.

— Todd Park and Peter Basch “A Historic Opportunity: Wedding Health Information Technology to Care Delivery Innovation and Provider Payment Reform”

— Ellen-Marie Whelan and Judy Feder “Payment Reform to Improve Health Care”

— Melinda Beeuwkes Buntin and David M. Cutler “The Two Trillion Dollar Solution: Saving Money by Modernizing the Health Care System”

Something I’ll note. In his testimony, Elmendorf seems very certain that eliminating the employer-provided health care tax exclusion would help to bend the curve on health costs. It’s not immediately clear to me or to the folks I’ve briefly canvassed that that’s right. In Elmendorf’s terms, the curbing the exclusion would pretty clearly lower the curve, but I’m not sure it would change its trajectory. That said, for these purposes CBO scores matter more than reality, so if the CBO is willing to score exclusion-curbing as curve-bending, that constitutes a reason to take the idea seriously.

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