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Dueling Healthcare Proposals Submitted to Super Committee

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, October 19, 2011

House and Senate committees submitted on Friday their recommended budget cuts and reforms for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which has until November 23 to develop legislation to cut a mere $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years.

I thought it might be useful to take a close look at the Democratic and Republican proposals for healthcare spending reform. This task contains an assumption that the parties’ positions would be clearly stated. My bad. What I found instead is a big mishmash of policy statements wrapped in political dogma.

The biggest surprise is how the Democrats make their case to the “super committee.” Republicans are all about the dollars—Medicare spending increased from $37 billion in 1980 to $514 billion in 2010, for example. The Democrats take a more touchy-feely approach, citing the potential loss of Medicare benefits to people who depend on the coverage. There’s nothing wrong with that argument, but let’s face it, the debt committee needs to find a lot of money fast to cut from the budget. The Republicans seem more than happy to help.

Here’s a brief look at how the two political parties would address cuts to some specific healthcare programs. Let’s start with an easy one—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee would like the super committee to strongly consider repealing “this flawed and partisan health law as an essential step in improving our nation’s future economic and fiscal outlook.” In making its point, the group cites a Senate Budget Committee report that pegs the full implementation cost of the ACA at $2.6 trillion over 10 years.

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