Lost in the glowing coverage of the Congressional Budget Office’s “favorable” estimate of Sen. Max Baucus’ health care bill is an astounding fact: it doesn’t lower health care costs.

Although the Congressional Budget Office estimates says the bill will reduce the deficit by $81 billion, CBO also says, “Cost is growing at about 8% per year toward the end of the 10-year budget window.” If you take that 8% inflation rate and compound it over 10 years, it means that health care costs will MORE than double every decade. This is as bad – or worse – than the status quo.

Equating deficit projections with health care inflation, as many in the press have done, reveals a serious misunderstanding of the issue. If the goal of health care reform is lowering the deficit, then any tax hike or spending cut will do. But if the goal of health care reform is lowering health care costs, then proposals should be judged on whether or not they accomplish that goal. Sen. Baucus’ bill does not.

As the Heritage Foundation rightly points out, the Baucus bill’s alleged savings only appear after $228 billion in tax hikes. In addition to those tax hikes, there is a $33 billion unfunded Medicaid mandate and $240 billion in cuts to doctors who serve Medicare patients. It’s fiscal sleight of hand, not fiscal responsibility. And that’s no victory.

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