The Plank

Nice Cost Containment Structure You've Got There... Shame If Anything Should Happen To It

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Will health care reform help slow down rising costs? The Congressional Budget Office, even while totally discounting the slew of new cost-containment methods in the Senate bill, says yes. Conservative skeptics say no, arguing that Americans won't tolerate cuts to even totally ineffective spending on medical care. The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery summarizes the conservative case for skepticism:

Many budget experts also worry that lawmakers may not have the stomach to keep the new taxes and spending cuts intended to pay for the package. Republicans are already planning to offer an amendment to strike more than $400 billion in proposed Medicare cuts from the package, a move that would blow a huge hole in financing for the bill.

Along the same lines, the Weekly Standard editorializes (in an editorial chock full of misinformation and misleading claims):

As for comparative effectiveness research, the reaction earlier this month to new guidelines for breast and cervical cancer screenings shows that Americans don't like it when government panels interfere with individual health care decisionmaking. And congressional Democrats want to go further. The bill's main claim to control costs is the Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB), an unelected body recommending cuts to Medicare.

So, Republicans argue that cost controls can't work, and their best evidence is that 1) Republicans are opposed to cutting Medicare overpayments and 2) Republicans are fanning the flames of public hysteria over cancer screenings. The Standard is also upset that an unelected body can make recommendations to cut Medicare, because that body would be immune from said hysteria (though Congress could still override its recommendations.)

In sum, the argument is that cost control can't work because Republican demagogues are determined to subvert it. I suppose this argument could prove correct over time. But it doesn't strike me as a persuasive case for letting the Republicans win.

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