Political reality makes it unlikely ObamaCare will cut deficits

November 4, 2009

Here is OMB Director Peter Orszag at NYU yesterday:

Our fiscal future is so dominated by health care that if we can slow the rate of cost growth by just 15 basis points per year (that is, 0.15 percentage points per year), the savings on Medicare and Medicaid would equal the impact from eliminating Social Security’s entire 75-year shortfall.

Right now, we are further along toward our goal of fiscally responsible health reform than ever before. I believe that in the weeks to come, the President will sign a bill that gives those with health insurance stability and expands coverage, and does so while boosting quality and reducing long-term deficits.

But there is mounting evidence that ObamaCare won’t do enough to reduce deficits. The Peterson Foundation just released a study on the Baucus bill that it commissioned from the Lewin Group. The findings:

1) The impact on the Federal budget deficit is positive only if the reductions to reimbursement levels are maintained. More than half of the $404 billion in savings over the 2010 through 2019 period is attributed to reductions in the rate of growth in payments to providers for health services, plus reductions in hospital DSH payments.

2)  Without providing new measures to control the growth in costs, the study estimates that total health spending would rise from about 17 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 to 25 percent in 2029.

3) The federal government’s health spending would increase by almost $400 billion over the next 10 years and $1.6 trillion over the 20-year period.

Me: The context here, of course, is that Congress just tried an end-around to make sure doctor reimbursements aren’t cut. Actually, if the cuts were actually made, you would save enough that you would not have to raise taxes to pay for reform — though the goal is to make sure reform actually results in less red ink.

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