Viewpoints: Sen. Whitehouse argues deficit fix shouldn't be about Medicare; Is a plunge over the cliff so bad?

Published on December 6, 2012 at 1:06 AM · No Comments

Politico: Health Care Savings Without Medicare Cuts
As President Barack Obama and congressional leaders continue discussions to avert the so-called fiscal cliff -; the mix of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect automatically in January -; we hear a troubling but familiar refrain in Washington: To fix our deficit, we must cut Medicare benefits. That is flat-out wrong. The fact is, we have a systemwide health care cost problem in America. Health care expenditures are nearly 18 percent of our gross domestic product. The next least-efficient developed country in the world spends 12 percent of its GDP on health care (Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., 12/4).

Baltimore Sun: Why We Must Stop Obsessing About The Budget Deficit
America's wildly inefficient, balkanized health-care system is already taking a far larger share of the total economy than that of every other rich nation (18 percent), and yet our health outcomes are worse. ... So instead of fighting over how to cut the budget deficit, we should be having a constructive conversation about how to use government's bargaining power through Medicare and Medicaid to hold down health care costs. And then use the Affordable Care Act as a stepping stone toward a single-payer health-care system (Robert B. Reich, 12/5).

The Washington Post: Opening Bids On 'Fiscal Cliff' Talks Are Too Small
Mr. Boehner would cut $600 billion in medical entitlement spending, $300 billion in other entitlements and $300 billion in discretionary outlays -; numbers that he suggested are based on ideas raised in congressional testimony a year ago by Erskine Bowles, a former co-chair of the national deficit reduction commission. The reference to Mr. Bowles's recommendation also would imply applying a new inflation adjustment to federal taxes and benefits, yielding $200 billion in savings, and a gradual increase in the Medicare eligibility age (12/4).

The Wall Street Journal: The Budget Baseline Con
Both the White House and House Republicans are pretending that their goal is "reducing the deficit," which they suggest means making real spending choices. They are talking about a "$4 trillion plan," or something, regardless of how that number is reached. Here's the reality: Those numbers have no real meaning because they are conjured in the wilderness of mirrors that is the federal budget process (12/4).

Los Angeles Times: 'Fiscal Cliff'? Let's Take The Plunge 
Let's join hands and walk to the bottom of the cliff together. It's not very far down. The deficit and national debt will be reduced; Social Security, Medicaid and, for the most part, Medicare will go on unharmed; America will go back to tax rates that worked better than the cuts we've been living with; and Congress will actually be forced to do something for a change: Republicans and Democrats will have to work together to repair those programs damaged by sequestration (Jack Shakely, 12/5).

Los Angeles Times: Your Guide To The 'Fiscal Cliff' 
So far, Democrats have managed to duck tough decisions on how much to cut from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Their day of reckoning will come, but probably not until next year (Doyle McManus, 12/5).

The Tennessean: State Should Run With Ball, Manage Own Health Care
State [health insurance] exchanges will have lots of authority. Though they will not be setting the insurance rates, they can bar an insurer from an exchange for raising its rates too high. ... We believe it is best for Tennessee to develop its own exchange, because exchanges are an innovative, market-driven strategy that foster competition, choice, cost-savings and quality among insurers. It leaves Tennessee in charge, and not the federal government (Drs. Manoj Jain, and William H. Frist, 12/4).

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