Sen. Kent Conrad letter: Health reform pays close attention to costsDr. Rick Becker is wrong on almost every point (“Conrad downplays plan’s cost,” Page D3, Oct. 4).
By: Kent Conrad,
WASHINGTON — Dr. Rick Becker is wrong on almost every point (“Conrad downplays plan’s cost,” Page D3, Oct. 4).
I have never downplayed the cost of health reform. I have been the one at the table insisting that health reform is fully paid for and that it bends the long-term cost curve on health care.
When other senators have made proposals that would dramatically increase costs, I have been the one objecting and warning of the consequences of not getting our fiscal house in order.
Becker is simply wrong about the cost of the Baucus health plan. The Congressional Budget Office’s initial analysis of the plan found that it would reduce federal budget deficits over the coming decades. Specifically, CBO said it could reduce deficits by half a percent of GDP over the second 10 years, which translates into the $1.3 trillion figure I used.
Becker complains about the plan’s savings in Medicare and Medicaid. But the vast majority of these savings come from ending overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans and from cuts that have been negotiated with insurers, drug companies and other providers.
These providers are willing to accept cuts because they know coverage will be expanded under the reform and, as a result, they will have more revenue.
I support some of Becker’s alternative solutions. But they represent tinkering around the edges. Even if all of his proposals were adopted, they barely would make a dent in the problem.
The Baucus plan, on the other hand, represents a comprehensive and significant move toward improving the quality of care and bringing down health care costs.
Becker’s last proposal, to “fix Medicare,” is vague and unhelpful. The fact is, the Baucus plan includes significant delivery system reforms designed to incentivize better quality care and value for Medicare beneficiaries.
If Becker has other ideas on this front, I would look forward to hearing them.
We have a chance to improve health care in North Dakota and across the nation, while we simultaneously shift to a sounder long-term fiscal path. I will continue to focus on that effort.
Conrad, a Democrat, represents North Dakota in the U.S. Senate.