Medicare’s chief actuary: Paul Ryan’s plan could control health-care costs better than ObamaCare
posted at 5:18 pm on January 26, 2011 by Allahpundit
Two of the central promises of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law are unlikely to be fulfilled, Medicare’s independent economic expert told Congress on Wednesday.
The landmark legislation probably won’t hold costs down, and it won’t let everybody keep their current health insurance if they like it, Chief Actuary Richard Foster told the House Budget Committee. His office is responsible for independent long-range cost estimates…
Costs could also increase if Medicare cuts to hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies turn out to be politically unsustainable over the years. The actuary’s office has projected those cuts would eventually force about 15 percent of providers into the red. The health care law funnels savings from the Medicare cuts to provide coverage to uninsured workers and their families.
As for people getting to keep their health insurance plan, Foster’s office is projecting that more than 7 million Medicare recipients in private Medicare Advantage plans will eventually have to find other coverage, cutting enrollment in the plans by about half.
By politically unsustainable cuts, he of course means “doctor fix,” which is where Congress initially promises to save money by pretending it might not raise Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors and then quickly goes ahead and raises them when doctors complain and start dropping Medicare patients. Democrats used that ruse to great advantage when gaming the original pricetag for ObamaCare.
But I digress. Foster’s testimony today came at what was supposed to be a hearing about ObamaCare’s effect on Medicare but which Chris Van Hollen turned into an attack on Ryan’s Roadmap per the Democrats’ new “Paul Ryan is the second coming of Cthulhu” strategy. So how about it, Mr. Foster? Does The One’s plan actually control costs better than Cthulhu’s? Per the Daily Caller, maybe not:
Van Hollen pressed Foster on whether Ryan’s plan would work, prompting Foster to point out that one of the biggest problems in health care now is that most new technology that is developed increases costs rather than decreasing it.
“If there’s a way to turn around the mindset for the people who do the research and development … to get them to focus more on cost-reducing tech and less on cost increasing technology, if you can do that then one of biggest components of [increasing costs] turns to your side,” Foster said. “If you can put that pressure on the research and development community, you might have fighting chance of changing the nature of new medical technology in a way that makes lower cost levels possible.”
Foster said: “The Road Map has that potential. There is some potential for the Affordable Care Act price reductions, though I’m a little less confident about that.”
Here’s Ryan addressing Van Hollen and reminding the public of one of the dirty little secrets about his Roadmap: It’s actually exceedingly timid about rolling back entitlements like Medicare, which, let’s face it, the GOP embraced long ago. (Remember, one of its lines of attack on O-Care to win senior voters in the midterm elections was that Obama’s plan would bleed Medicare dry.) The left wants you to believe that this guy’s trying to eliminate the welfare state, and yet here he is assuring Medicare’s chief actuary that his plan won’t reduce spending on the program as a percentage of GDP. He’s working within the realm of what’s politically possible, not ideologically ideal. Although, frankly, at the moment, even this isn’t remotely near being politically possible.