Bill Frist: The GOP-Backed Debt Ceiling Deal Is Like The IPAB In Health Reform

Former Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) is predicting that the American people will pressure the super committee into reducing the growing costs of entitlement programs, which, Frist says, may finally have a real “shot” at tackling the nation’s health care spending. But during the interview with Kaiser Health News, the former Senate leader also put a dent in the Republican criticism of the Affordable Care Act: he likened the final debt ceiling deal — the triggers that would go into effect if Congress fails to adopt the committee’s recommendations and the committee itself — to the ACA’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which congressional Republicans have condemned as rationing. “I think the IPAB may or may not be successful,” he said:

MARY AGNES CAREY: What about this automatic trigger that kicks in if they don’t get an agreement? Does that create additional pressure for this committee to act?

BILL FRIST: It does, it does. And I think there have been several efforts. The administration made one through the IPAB, Independent Payment Advisory Board. Somebody besides the 535 people — 435 in Congress and 100 Senators — somebody has to take a leadership position on making recommendations — take some of the political heat — make the recommendations and have them support it. So, I think the IPAB may or may not be successful. I think 535 people all throwing in their favorite programs and how to cut and how to restrain is not going to be effective. So this intermediate ground this time around has a shot. We saw it work very well with the base realignment closing after the Cold War, closing down the bases. Up or down vote. Can’t amend. Can’t play politics with it. That’s the model we’re following. We don’t know if it’s going to be successful, but I think this time around, it does have a shot.

But the triggers and the super committee may make far deeper cuts in Medicare and Medicaid than the IPAB, which — despite Frist’s assumptions — the majority of Americans actually oppose. Still, his admission that most Republicans ended up voting in favor of the very same kind of mechanism that they have spent months decrying because it was signed into law by a Democratic president, presents an unflattering comparison to conservatives who are looking to repeal the health care law.