The Deficit Commission's Health Care "Plan"
My colleague Kevin Drum says the best way to judge the deficit commission co-chairs' preliminary plan [PDF] is to look at how much of it is focused on lowering health care costs. "Any serious long-term deficit plan will spend about 1% of its time on the discretionary budget, 1% on Social Security, and 98% on healthcare," Kevin argues. The co-chairs, Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator, and Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, definitely don't do that. Instead, as Kevin writes, they "turn suddenly vague and cramped when it gets to Medicare." There's a good reason for that: Most of the health care savings that could have been used to reduce the deficit have already been used to pay for various provisions of the Democrats' health care reform bill, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Because Democrats were determined to make ACA reduce the deficit, almost every cost-saving measure that was considered politically viable—and a few that weren't—was included in the bill. Some of those cuts proved damaging to Dems. Many Republicans campaigned against the hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to Medicare that helped pay for the ACA. (The Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS ran ads slamming Dems for slashing Medicare.) Even after those cuts were made, the Dems still needed to find more money. Remember the tanning tax? The 1099 reporting requirements? Those were acts of desperation.