It’s not surprising to me that writers on The Corner were somewhat skeptical about yesterday’s announcement that $2 trillion in health care savings could be achieved without compromising patient care. See this from Yuval Levin and this joke from Jonah Goldberg, for example. And the skepticism’s not entirely unwarranted. I, for one, have no doubt that you could realize substantial cost savings (see this paper from David Cutler) but I have my doubts that the potential savings will actually materialize given the vagaries of interest group politics.
Strikingly, though, the Corner doesn’t follow this up with a bold Yglesian call to suck it up and raise taxes. Nor do they follow with a bold dystopian call to suck it up and learn to live with an ever-more-dysfunctional health care system. Instead, they offer as an alternative to alleged wishful thinking from the White House, this much more wishful thinking from Newt Gingrich:
However, America must do far more if we are to truly create a 21st-century, intelligent health system that will deliver better health outcomes at a lower cost. Over the next ten years, we will spend upwards of $30 trillion on healthcare. The amount pledged to be saved in today’s announcement is $2 trillion. That’s certainly no small amount, but it speaks to the magnitude of the problem. We should set our sights much higher. Between improving health, cutting waste, radically reducing fraud, and covering the uninsured, I believe that we could eliminate up to a third of all healthcare spending.
In other words, the very same magazine that wants us to believe that Obama is full of it when he says he can save $2 trillion in health care spending expects us to believe that Newt Gingrich can save five times that much purely through healthier lifestyles and eliminating fraud and waste. That’s a trick I’d really like to see.
I think it’s fine if conservatives want to argue that the overall cost of health care reform is just too much to bear and so we should stick with the status quo. But it’s hugely dishonest to go around pretending, Newt-style, that they have up their sleeves some hidden, dramatically cheaper alternative method of achieving the exact same policy goals. Believe me, if Gingrich actually had some way to cut health care spending by a third while achieving universal coverage and improving health outcomes, congressional Democrats would be leaping at the chance to steal his ideas.