Congress Readies To Mobilize In Favor Of Wasteful Medicare Spending

To my mind, the biggest farce in the world is the idea of congress passing a law in 2011 that aims at cutting Medicare spending at some point in the far-off future. When congress cuts food stamps, it cuts food stamps right away. When state legislatures cut child care funding, they cut child care funding right away. Yes, people rely on those services. Yes, immediate cuts make people upset. But that’s life. So while we’re all here in Washington talking about promising drastic Medicare cuts for my generation, Congress is also mobilizing to ensure that there will be no actual reduction in wasteful Medicare spending:

Mr. Obama wants to expand the power of the 15-member panel, which was created by the new health care law, to rein in Medicare costs.

But not only do Republicans and some Democrats oppose increasing the power of the board, they also want to eliminate it altogether. Opponents fear that the panel, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board, would usurp Congressional spending power over one of the government’s most important and expensive social programs.

Somehow a lot of conservatives have managed to convince themselves that by adopting Paul Ryan’s plan to delay all changes by 10 years and then insert an additional level of rent-seeking for-profit insurance companies endowed with a fiduciary obligation to shareholders to lobby furiously for increased subsidies that the political problem here will go away. Meanwhile, the very same members of congress who voted this month to privatize Medicare in 2022 and enact draconian cuts throughout the 2020s and 2030s are here in town right now defending health care providers’ right to charge the government high prices for services that don’t work. Indeed, as recently as 2009 no less a figure than Paul Ryan himself was fuming at the idea of reducing government subsidies to for-profit insurance companies.