Charlie Dent Really Does Not Like Controlling Health Care Costs

Like I wrote earlier, if Congress doesn’t vote to do things that increase the deficit, and implements the Affordable Care Act as written, we don’t have a deficit problem. But Congress really really wants to increase the deficit. Here’s Charlie Dent not controlling health care costs:

A bipartisan majority of House lawmakers is pressing Medicare to reverse a proposed cut to hospital payments.

The Medicare agency recently proposed a 3.5 percent cut in payments to hospitals as well as a 2.9 percent adjustment to offset payments that it said are the result of changes in how come claims are filed.

But 219 House members said hospitals can’t afford the cuts, and urged Medicare to reconsider the proposal.

The thing about controlling health care costs is that you have to pay less money, not more. This position is incompatible with Dent’s stated goal of deficit reduction.

57% Say They’d Be Worse Off Under RyanCare

No surprise here: Republicans are still losing the argument on Medicare. RyanCare continues to languish in the low 30’s in every poll:

By a margin of 57 percent to 34 percent, poll respondents say they would be worse off if Ryan’s plan to convert Medicare to a system of subsidized private health coverage were adopted. Fifty-eight percent of independents, a critical voting bloc in recent elections, say they would be worse off.

Bernie O’Hare Thinks We Spend $200 Billion a Year on Defensive Medicine

In an advertisement for Charlie Dent’s tort reform bill, Bernie O’Hare tries to sneak this whopper past us:

The practice of defensive medicine – when doctors order tests and treatments in order to protect themselves against frivolous lawsuits – is estimated to cost as much as $200 billion annually. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyses indicate comprehensive medical liability reform would save the government $54 billion over the next decade and cut national health care spending by 0.5 percent per year. Dent’s leislation will encourage states to adopt effective alternative medical liability laws that reduce the number of health care lawsuits initiated, reduce the average amount of time taken to resolve lawsuits and reduce the cost of malpractice insurance.

The $54 billion annual savings number includes the cost of defensive medicine:

Concerns about reducing the rate of growth of health expenditures have reignited interest in medical liability reforms and their potential to save money by reducing the practice of defensive medicine. It is not easy to estimate the costs of the medical liability system, however. This article identifies the various components of liability system costs, generates national estimates for each component, and discusses the level of evidence available to support the estimates. Overall annual medical liability system costs, including defensive medicine, are estimated to be $55.6 billion in 2008 dollars, or 2.4 percent of total health care spending.

That’s from a Health Affairs study, summarizing the most rigorous research that’s been done on this question to date. If Bernie has seen a better study showing that we really waste $200 billion a year on defensive medicine (4 times as much!), I’d love to know what it is.

House GOP Trying to Censor Democrats’ Constituent Mail on Medicare

Brian Beutler:

A bitter, behind-the-scenes fight over the GOP’s Medicare phase-out plan has bubbled out into the open, and now Democrats are openly charging Republicans with censoring their communications with constituents.

Several House Democrats are petitioning House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), in a letter first reported by Roll Call, to step in and stop Republicans on the House Administration Committee from blocking Democratic Medicare mailers…

But Dems make an important point — and they have documentation to back it up. The language Republicans on the commission now reject is identical to language they approved earlier this year, before their Medicare plan cost them a seat in a conservative district in upstate New York.

Medicare Is the Solution, Not the Problem

Paul Krugman shows that Medicare is much better at controlling costs than private insurance:

If Medicare costs had risen as fast as private insurance premiums, it would cost around 40 percent more than it does. If private insurers had done as well as Medicare at controlling costs, insurance would be a lot cheaper.

There’s no mystery here. Bigger risk pools control costs better than smaller risk pools.

If everybody joins Team Medicare, Medicare will have more market power to push down the growth in health care suppliers’ prices, just like Amazon and Walmart push down their suppliers’ prices.

If we do what Paul Ryan and Charlie Dent want to do, and everyone splinters off into many different small private teams, then no one has enough market power to push down the growth in health care suppliers’ prices.

That is why CBO says health care costs would double for the typical senior under RyanCare:

Only 32% of Voters Support GOP Plan to End Medicare

Ezra Klein:

[T]he latest Washington Post/ABC News poll included a question about the Ryan budget. The phrasing, I think, was as vague and favorable as Republicans could hope for: “ Republicans in the House of Representatives approved a budget plan that would change Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly. These changes would affect Americans currently under age 55. From what you’ve heard about it, do you support or oppose this new plan for Medicare?” Nevertheless, 49 percent opposed it and only 32 percent supported it.

Of course, it’s not true at all that people over 55 wouldn’t pay more under RyanCare.

One Last Time on Tort Reform

In a sane world, this Aaron Carroll post thoroughly debunking the claim that liability caps will produce real cost control would put the issue to sleep forever. But I know we will keep hearing about it…