Now would be a good time to remember that at the beginning of the health care reform push, the White House was arguing that it needed to act on health care in order to rein in entitlements.
You may recall that days after signing the $787 billion economic stimulus package, the White House hosted a Fiscal Responsibility Summit.
Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, declared that:
In charting a new fiscal course, we need to be clear in diagnosing the problem. The single most important thing we can do to put this nation back on a sustainable long-term fiscal course, is slow the growth rate of health care costs.
As Bob Greenstein already emphasized, health care is the key to our fiscal future.
So, to my fellow budget hawks in this room and in the rest of the country, let me be very clear. Health care reform is entitlement reform. The path to fiscal responsibility must run directly through health care.
We also must recognize that reforms to Medicare and Medicaid will only succeed in the context of slowing the overall growth rate of health care costs.
President Obama made the same point himself in an April economic speech at Gerogetown:
So if we want to get serious about fiscal discipline — and I do — then we’re going to not only have to trim waste out of our discretionary budget — which we’ve already begun — we will also have to get serious about entitlement reform.
Now, nothing will be more important to this goal then passing health care reform that brings down costs across the system, including in Medicare and Medicaid.
So make no mistake: Health care reform is entitlement reform.
And now, the process which began with the declaration that “health care reform is entitlement reform” is reaching a conclusion with a bill that would add 15 million people to the Medicaid rolls and a last minute deal to expand the mother of all entitlements, Medicare. And to the extent that the legislation does cut Medicare spending, it is merely to finance a new entitlement.
Let us not forget, also, that so far not one official estimate has found that pending legislation would reduce the growth of our nation’s overall health care costs, and when the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services evaluated the House bill, he found that it actually made our health care system even more expensive than the unsustainable status quo.
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