Monday, June 1, 2009

Kaiser Health News Debuts Today and Features an Important Insight Into a Likely Health Care Bill

Kaiser Health News (KHN) debuted today and is a critically important addition to America's debate over health care reform.

As the media has downsized in recent years, we have lost many reporters who were health care specialists. KHN will provide news outlets across the country with an important specialized source of solid reporting from an organization that has come to be known as uniquely expert and unbiased.

In their inaugural issue today, Julie Appleby has an interesting interview with Nancy Ann DeParle, the President's point person on reform.

I thought a couple of her answers to Appleby's questions were telling:
Q: Congress is batting around cost-control measures as part of this discussion but also is considering a number of other ways to pay for health reform, including tax increases. Do you think the president would sign a health reform bill if paying for it relied mainly on new taxes?

A: No.

Q: So what is he looking for?

A: I haven’t had that discussion with him. We proposed in our budget a $634 billion reserve fund, which was divided about equally between Medicare and Medicaid savings proposals and some new revenues. We’ve been working with Congress to identify other sources of Medicare and Medicaid savings and other sources of revenue. Again, I don’t believe a bill like the one you described will be presented to the president. I believe the bill will be fully financed, evenly divided between savings in Medicare and Medicaid and some other sources of revenue, such as the ones he’s identified.
The operative phrase here is "evenly divided between savings in Medicare and Medicaid and some other sources of revenue such as the ones he's identified." Those other sources, in his budget "down payment" for health care reform were taxes. Looks pretty clear the White House is expecting half of the cost for a health care bill to be paid for by taxes.
Q: Industry groups are supposed to come back to you with plans on how they promise to slow the growth of health spending by $2 trillion over 10 years. Are you still expecting to hear from them June 1 with some proposals?

A: I am. They were to update me in early June. They’re working very hard. They’ve hired some outside consultants to help them work through this and facilitate the process.

Q: How confident are you that the proposals they present will be scorable by the Congressional Budget Office or in some way measurable and quantifiable?

A: I know they will be measurable and quantifiable and will provide tangible benefits to families and people struggling to afford health care. I believe some will be able to be scored by CBO.
Translated: There won't be a lot more than just empty boxes--"I believe some will be able to be scored by the CBO."

As I have been writing recently, I expect the final health care reform bill to have some cost containment window dressing, some modest provider cuts that don't hurt too much, and lots of taxes.

Looks like the White House is expecting the same thing.


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