Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Health Care Costs That Count in the Senate Finance Bill

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Health Care Costs That Count in the Senate Finance Bill

Article excerpt

The fiscal report card on the cost of the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare bill could make a legislator burst with pride.

Not only does the bill's projected total cost of $829 billion come in under President Obama's $900 billion 10-year upper limit, it is estimated to also actually reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion in the decade that starts next year, and probably longer than that. So, at least, concludes the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week.

But let's take out the wide-angle lens and view the bigger picture. The United States faces unmet obligations under Medicare - the government healthcare program for seniors - of nearly $40 trillion. Removing $81 billion from that mountain is a bit like using a toy backhoe instead of a Caterpillar earthmover.

The idea of even tinkering with Medicare brought howls of outrage from Americans at town-hall meetings this summer. And yet, solving the country's crisis of escalating healthcare costs is impossible without reforming Medicare, which accounts for the bulk of government spending on healthcare.

Lawmakers well know both the fiscal and the political challenge of the Medicare program. That's why the Senate Finance bill - the expected template of any healthcare legislation - laudably includes a special new Medicare commission to cut costs. The commission's ideas will automatically go into effect unless Congress overrides them. …

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