Critical Condition

Bending the Cost-Curve and the Truth

After months of hearing President Obama talk about the need to “bend the curve” on rising health costs, the Office of the Chief Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a thorough review of the House health bill. Its verdict? The bill would in fact bend the cost-curve. It would bend it upward.

In July, the Washington Post wrote, “From the start, President Obama has been firm. . . . He told us flatly that he won’t accept a bill that doesn’t ‘bend the curve’ on rising health-care costs.” Furthermore, “Any reform, he has said, must be ‘deficit-neutral.’”

Just over three months later, the president pushed, implored, and cajoled House Democrats to pass a health bill that, by 2020, would increase deficits by well over $100 billion (in the absence of a fanciful 21 percent pay cut to doctors under Medicare that no one expects to materialize) and which, according to the government’s own CMS analysis, would increase nationwide health-care costs by over $500 billion in relation to what those costs would be under current law — and by $289 billion even if doctors’ pay is slashed.

Keep in mind that these aren’t merely increases in government spending that would be offset by decreases in private spending. Rather, over the next decade, the total costs of all health care in America — private and public combined — would rise by over $500 billion (and by $289 billion even if doctors’ pay is cut) under the House bill in relation to current law. Against his word, the president has championed a bill that would raise health costs and deficits — and would raise them substantially.

No wonder that in today’s Washington Post, Robert Samuelson writes, “The disconnect between what President Obama says and what he’s doing is so glaring that most people could not abide it. The president, his advisers and allies have no trouble. But reconciling blatantly contradictory objectives requires them to engage in willful self-deception, public dishonesty, or both.”