Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

According to the Hill, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus is predicting 75% to 80% chance of passing health reform this year. I think that the chances of health care reform are high, and President Obama certainly has learned from his Secretary of State's mistakes in 2003, but it is risky to count your chickens before they hatch. I am puzzled by the fact that the Medicare trustees' recent announcement of the impending collapse of the Medicare Part A trust (indeed before I'm eligible) is not raising more alarms. The Administration is arguing that universal health care will solve the Medicare trust problem. "Just as families, communities and businesses are struggling under the crushing burden of skyrocketing healthcare costs, so too are our Medicare Trust funds," said [HHS Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius. "This isn't just another government report. It's yet another sign that we can't wait for real, comprehensive health reform." I can't see the connection.

The Financial Times offers an interview with OMB Director Peter Orzag who said “'We have been very clear that a deficit-increasing healthcare reform is neither practical nor desirable.'” A senior administration official told the FT that health reform would have to be deficit-neutral over 10 years and in the tenth year, and promise substantial savings over the longer term." That obviously is easier said than done, and I expect that in the end the medical community will get jittery over reform. Of course, the health insurance industry already is.

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