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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Health Care Costs and Benefits

One of the most confusing (but important) details in the health reform debate is the impact of reform on health costs. Last week a lot of reform opponents crowed when the independent administrator (who title is “Actuary”) of the Medicare program released a report suggesting that total national health care costs would be roughly the same in ten years under the pending Senate bill as under status quo policies. It thus wouldn’t, said critics, “bend the curve” of rising health care costs.
As Jonathan Cohn of TNR explains today, one obvious problem with that diagnosis was the arbitary cutoff date of 2019; costs under the reform scenario would actually go down for a couple of years, then go up sharply when the uninsured are covered in 2014, then trend more modestly downward after that. Moreover, the report doesn’t reflect the intended cost savings in the bill that CBO refuses to “score” based on their “speculative” nature, which happen to reflect what serious cost-hounds have been recommending most urgently.
But beyond that, even if you accept that the “curve” doesn’t “bend,” there’s this little matter that over 30 million additiional Americans will have health insurance under the reform scenario as scored by CBO. In other words, even if the costs are the same, the benefits are higher. That ought to count for something in this debate.

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