Friday, July 17, 2009

Costs and access in the healthcare debate

Something unusual happened today -- I was actually nodding while reading a Wall Street Journal article! Today's WSJ reports that the director of the Congressional Budget Office Douglas Elmendorf refuted the ability of the proposed House bills to contain healthcare costs. The CBO Director, while agreeing that the proposals will expand coverage and therefore access, did not see any compromises introduced that would rein in the runaway spending and bring the growth rate in healthcare spending more in line with the inflationary growth.

Indeed, while it is easy for the Democrats to offer more coverage to more people, measures to curtail spending are more politically hazardous: after all, it means cutting the fat out of the system by legislative mandate. And as we already know, this is a terrific opportunity for liposuction! From overused procedures to overpriced products to overpaid executives -- the price tag for this fat could easily pay for millions of Americans' coverage. But of course, it would cut into the incomes and the profits of many of the wealthy stakeholders, who would not accept this without a loud and protracted battle.

These are tough decisions, and lack of political chutzpah on the part of the Democrats to deal with the fat now may jeopardize our chances at meaningful healthcare reform. And if not now, when? Start calling and writing today!

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