Nancy-Ann DeParle, the Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, posted a note – ironically titled “Reality Check” – on the White House blog this morning claiming that a new report from the federal government’s health actuaries supports the administration’s position on health care reform.
But all that report says is that U.S. health care spending continues to increase – even though the rate of increase actually hit a historic low in 2008 (the latest year for which figures are now available). DeParle’s argument is basically this: We spend too much on health care, therefore the reform proposals currently in Congress will fix everything.
However, DeParle seems to have missed the actuaries’ earlier report on what those reform proposals will actually do – which is, to make health care spending grow faster, not slower. In particular, actuaries estimate that if the Senate health reform bill becomes law, total U.S. health care spending would increase by 0.7%, or $234 billion through 2019. And that’s after taking into account what little savings would be achieved by cutting Medicare benefits and encouraging employer to cut health benefits by taxing private insurance plans that are “too generous.”
In other words, the primary source of “savings” in the Senate bill comes not from making the health care system more efficient, but from (1) denying health care services to seniors under Medicare, and (2) from encouraging private insurance companies and employer to deny health care services to everybody else. Even after taking account of that so-called “savings,” total health care spending would still increase faster than it would without reform!
The inescapable conclusion is that reform proposals currently in Congress will take an inefficient health care system and make it even more inefficient than it is now. One does not have to be one of what DeParle dismissively calls “defenders of the status quo” to oppose a reform plan that will produce a result clearly even worse than the status quo.
DeParle claims that if “opponents of reform get their way,” health care spending will continue to increase. The fact is, if the administration gets its way, health care spending will increase faster than it does already and we’ll get less health care for our money. If opponents get their way, we might instead have real reform that gives patients more choices, gives providers incentives to give the best treatment instead of the most expensive treatment, and ultimately better health care at a lower cost. Unfortunately, that’s the opposite of the outcome the bills in Congress would give us.