Thursday, October 22, 2009

Doing the Right Thing--The Doc Fix Vote and the CMS Report

Predicting the outcome of yesterday's Senate vote on the $245 billion deficit adding doc fix was easy.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Reid was going to sail this thing through the Senate with almost all Democrats and even a bunch of Republicans onside.

Senators are afraid of the docs—after all they have voted for years to waive any cuts. Democrats needed to get this $245 billion cost out of the final health care bill to have any chance of coming in under a trillion dollars in cost and make their bill "deficit neutral." Lots of Republicans would even join the Democrats in approving it overwhelmingly having no courage to face down the most powerful health care lobby of all.

Here is how Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid put it just after the vote:

"I don't bring anything to the floor unless I think I have the votes," Reid said to reporters while answering a question about the big lack of support for the Medicare doc fix. "I was told by various people that we'd have 27 Republican votes, which seemed reasonable since Senator Jon Kyl was the co-sponsor of this legislation. So I was stunned when I was told by his co- sponsor, Senator Stabenow, that, no, he wouldn't support it"

The final vote was 47-53 killing the measure with Independent Lieberman and 12 Democrats joining all of the Republicans.

Why?

Because when the day was done the swing votes on this just couldn’t bring themselves to vote in favor of cynical politics and adding another $245 billion to the deficit instead of putting this back where it belongs—a key part of health care reform.

That was yesterday.

Then today this: A report from the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) carried an unusual disclaimer, saying that; “it does not represent an official position of Health and Human Services or the rest of the administration."

I guess not. Here is what it said: "While health spending as a share of gross domestic product would grow to 20.8% under current law, the study found that the House bill would cause it to grow to 21.3% of GDP."

Why? Because covering more people in essentially an unchanged system will cost more. Dah. The Administration quickly pointed out the report doesn’t reflect recent updates to legislation designed to save money—a controversial contention in its own right.

So much for bending any curves.

There was no word on whether the Obama administration would move to revoke CMS's anti-trust exemption in retaliation for getting off message.

In a town steeped in the cynical traditions of politics a bunch of Senators and some career federal health care experts both chose to do the right thing during the last 24-hours.

If they keep this up we just might find our way to real health care reform some day!
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